In my earlier incarnations as a writer, I believed in an idea of the heroic artist. When I try and imagine him, the image of a steely-eyed captain comes to mind. They are piloting a tiny ship into tumultuous, uncertain seas. The skies are dark and a storm looms on the horizon. In my image, there are others on the boat, but they are helpless, clearly reliant on him.
The only way they survive this journey is by the hero’s deed. The heroic artist myth tells us that the genius creator is doomed to go down that path alone.
Here is an idea you won’t hear very often. Heroes make bad citizens.
We know the story pretty well, don’t we? When the village is threatened by the dragon, the hero is called upon to take action. They are supposed to rise and slay the terrible beast, real or proverbial, before it torches everything and everyone in its path.
In the business of making the place livable, however, the village needs more. The community requires a host of solid citizens. Name a role, baker or bookmaker, teacher or tailor, without these people, the dragon, seeking treasure for his hoard, goes elsewhere.
What Is Literary Citizenship?
The answer to this question bears a great deal of examination. The definition is as broad and nuanced as the two words that make up the term.
I have come to understand that, for my journey as a writer, literary citizenship means identifying with my fellow villagers over the hero. I have become more invested in making the village a place people want to live than rising out of my hermitage when the dragon’s shadow circles overhead.
My colleague, Ben Gorman, is a small local publisher. For almost as long as I’ve known Ben, he’s put out excellent books through his company, Not A Pipe Publishing. He is a visible member of the Oregon writing community and runs his business with clear intent. He brings out authors he admires, stands with their work, and commits his company to making a positive community impact.
I write similar books to those that Ben publishes. You could argue that our works are in direct “competition” with one another. If you searched Amazon, you would find our books side by side. Does it do the village any good to think of us as competitors though? I don’t think so. Not anymore.
The Idea Of Competition Versus Citizenship
I don’t want to float the idea that the world of literature should ignore competition. Business is, after all, business and everyone who undertakes this journey needs to feed a bottom line.
I think it’s worth trying to think of the literary world in a different way.
Writers, if we are wise, need to commit our support to the world of books. Everyone who undertakes the task of writing puts their words in direct competition for eyeballs with movies, television, and whatever other social media platform is rotting what remains of our sense of humanity.
We cannot afford to alienate potential readers. Supporting Ben’s books, and other authors like him, feeds the community. My community. Together we’re making our village a place we want to live.
What does literary citizenship mean? If you’re a writer, support your fellow scribe. If they ask for ARC readers for a coming release, offer to review their book. If they’re posting on social media, share it with your audience. Share your knowledge with everyone. Show up at events and buy local.
Decide what kind of citizen you want to be and go forth. If we do this thing right, I believe that together we can slay whatever dragon we face.
Can I Offer You A Free Book?
I have talked a lot about my books already.
Want to check one out?
I have made the eBook version of the The Strange Air series starter, The Book of Witness, available as a free download.
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This collection of thirteen weird tales from Canyon County, Oregon offers a taste of what’s in store for you in this series of paranormal mysteries.