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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

DIY MFA Keynote Speech: Benjamin Andrew Moore

Today's keynote speaker is Benjamin Andrew Moore, a fellow classmate of mine from the New School and the non-fiction and comics editor at Verbal Pyrotechnics.  Ben's writing caught my eye and captured my sense of humor with its satirical wit.  This guy is FUNNY!  But what's great about Ben's work is that it's also honest and real, and while he might have an ironic way of wording things, when you cut through to what he's really saying, you realize he's talking about something more serious than just good-humored fun.

Ben has a "satirical blog" Come Look At My Chest Hair and is a writer for Screenrant.com.  As Ben says: "If you need to warn people about the content of the Chest Hair blog, be my guest."  It involves chest hair; you have been warned.  :)  Without further ado, here's Ben's take on DIY MFA.
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Ninety percent of everything is terrible, give or take.

Ninety percent of movies are terrible, ninety percent of television shows, ninety percent of plays, of videogames, of board games, of human beings, of restaurants, of clothing lines, of orange and grape-flavored beverages, and of books. Fiction, ninety percent of the time, is laughable, bland, stupid, trite, purposeless, and—say it with me—terrible, terrible, terrible. I wish it weren’t true, dear readers, but so it goes!


The problem is, nobody takes risks and nobody’s original. Formula is king and clichés are its freaking court jesters. Humor is hard to come by, drama is over-serious—not to mention pretentious—mysteries are ham-fisted, vampire love books aren’t even romantic, and while Holden Caulfield was unrepentantly awesome, his millions upon millions of knock-offs were most definitely not. The Chocolate War? I mean, are you kidding me, Robert Cormier?

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It really doesn’t. That ten percent of quality is proof.

As writers, all you have to do is not rip off the books and stories and ideas that came before yours. It’s okay to be influenced by the things that you love, but it’s not okay to just re-do them with your prose in place of—say—F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. The Great Gatsby was great, sure, hence the title. But that doesn’t mean you should rewrite it. That doesn’t mean you should rip it off.


Be bold. Take risks. It’s lame, and it’s clichéd, and it probably even sounds stupid, but go big or go on home. Please, I beg of you, just try to create something that’s never been done before. A high fantasy book shouldn’t be the Lord of the Rings Part Fourteen. Historical thrillers shouldn’t be reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code, which in and of itself was a just rip-off of Angels and Demons, which in and of itself was just another in that ninety percent, give or take, of terrible books.

The DIY MFA is the perfect opportunity to grow as a writer on your own terms, away from the occasionally cannibalistic world of Creative Writing. Hell, if people despise your writing, that doesn’t even mean it’s bad! Once upon a time, people hated Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, William Faulkner, William S. Burroughs, Stanley Kubrick, Vincent Van Gogh, and so on, and so on, and on, and on. In fact, people hating your writing might actually mean you’re doing something right. Bravo.


Being creative isn’t easy. Truth be told, it’s can be really, really hard at times. But then if it’s so damn difficult for you, why’d you start writing in the first place?

5 comments:

M. Garcia said...

Fun post! I wish I had a more witty response but my head is congested and my nose is a jerk, so all I can come up with is 'fun post!' which is a lame reply :(

Oh well.

Robert Guthrie said...

90% of everything is terrible, that's why we have to do our own thing.

darksculptures said...

Strangely, I feel strangely liberated and the feeling is oh-so-good!

Elizabeth said...

Preach on BAM, preach on!

ProSpeke said...
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