NVDT #67 – Oh God, It’s the End of the World!


The Prompt – Has the pandemic affected your writing? If so, how? Have your writing habits changed in reaction to the ‘different’ world we are faced with?

Particularly in the beginning. The overall sense of panic. Not enough PPE, not enough hospital beds, not enough toilet paper. No one knew what to expect, bodies were stacking up like firewood. Like everything for the last four years, the problem wasn’t the problem. Finding fault and OMG hyperbole was the order of the day. A true stupid human tricks moment.

Beyond that there were the adjustments to Zoom ballet classes and online office hours and 24/7 tripping over the rest of the household trying to get something done. After the ups and downs and the nonsense a newish normal set in, here we are.

Here’s a real long-term epi-pan-demic.

US retail giant Guitar Center reportedly preparing to file for bankruptcy this weekend

Am I heartbroken or surprised about GC’s demise? No. The surprise is that it took so long. I am disheartened by what it represents.

Over twenty years ago market research showed that most kids didn’t want to play guitar, or drums or keyboards because it required work to get a result. The consensus was that the musical instrument business wasn’t competing with itself any longer, but with video games and DJs. Motley Fool and others predicted GC to tank since the public offering in 1997. Just over a year ago, I read that GC wouldn’t make it past 2020. A prediction made before Covid. Sorry, can’t blame the pandemic. But we can blame the “not willing to put in the work” epidemic.

I worked for the company that built Van Halen’s guitars and amps. I was a product manager in another division but one day Ed walked in on me playing “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” on a Clavinet through a 5150 half stack. After that being “somehow insanely wrong” we’d talk car jokes, screaming tone, and a lot about learning to do what we did, becoming who we grew up to be. How we’d sit in front of the stereo for hours and emulate our heroes and wrench on our gear to get “that” sound. It was all effort, trial, and error because there was no internet, no videos of how to wire a guitar pickup or mod the output of a synth. Cut a wire on the inside of your instrument, smoke a joint, forget where it went, solder it somewhere that looked reasonable and you were 1- dead in the water 2- got something new and marvelous or 3- got fire and smoke.

To up those odds of success, and to be even a passable musician takes practice. And more practice and study and more practice and sweat. Now, with attention spans at 12 seconds and a zillion distractions who is going to practice until their fingers bleed when they can stay up jacked on Red Bull for three days, get to level 87 in a video game and be just as heroic with their peers as the garage/party band of yesteryear?

This epidemic of not wanting to put in the work spills over into every aspect of our lives from creativity to obtaining an education. But let’s leave everyone else out of this for now except “writers.”

I traded in an ancient barely used Kindle first gen for a new Paperwhite the other day. I was anxious to load the new, lightweight, way more memory, easy to read Paperwhite with books from my epub folder. References I could keep at my fingertips, books to read on demand. As I was going through cleaning up the book files I tripped over quite a few absolute pieces of shit that have been lurking eating up space for several years. Pieces of shit with nice covers. Covers like real, readable books. Some by Indies, some by publishing house authors. I recalled a few years ago going on a rant about fucking cover reveals for shit content. Even people I went off on back then are still more concerned with illustrations than writing a good book.

But writing a good book doesn’t seem to be the point. Being an “author” with “books” that have “covers” is the point, screw putting in the work. Yeah, yeah, my mother my neighbor a good friend a teacher read it down for me, fixed my commas and added a few semi-colons to prove they went to college. Well how nice for you. Bless your heart.

I have an old joke about saying “That’s nice.” There’s another version with “Bless your heart.”

Rather than drag this out here’s Tolstoy –

If you asked someone, “Can you play the violin?” and he says “I don’t know, I have not tried, perhaps I can,’ you laugh at him. Whereas about writing, people always say: “I don’t know, I have not tried,” as though one had only to try and one would become a writer.

And if that one wasn’t enough, here’s Dr. Seuss on self editing –

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

I love that quote. It’s as succint and dead on as Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.

We need to put in the work. I don’t know if hardly anyone these days lays their work down or over or next to someone who can write. It doesn’t look like they do. Or if no one has taken advantage of the handful of professional editors out there who will red ink our first twenty pages and page 200 and bitch slap the writer in us into some semblance of reality check.

I’m gonna say this one last time on the internet. Some people will get their feelings hurt. If not by me today then by someone we pay or don’t know and who doesn’t participate in the ‘everybody’s a winner for trying’ bullshit or give a shit if we think our work is our children and NYT list material. Ready?

Marginally edited books with nice covers are a fucking plague.

It stops with each of us doing our best. Not printing posters and covers for a concert of the first night we pick up the violin, but putting in the work.

I’m afraid Vonnegut’s quote “If you can do a half-assed job of anything you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind” has come true. OMG. It’s the end of the world!


Published by

Phil Huston


15 thoughts on “NVDT #67 – Oh God, It’s the End of the World!”

  1. All very true, Phil. Video games, TV, Internet, social media and iPhones sap concentration levels and distract some writers who cannot bear to activate the off switches. Learning how to write properly takes many years. Unless writers have talent in the first place and the motivation to learn, then the covers will be the best part of their books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I tried to learn how to play the guitar with visions of being a folk singer. (Yes, I’m that old.) But I injured my ear and realized I had so sense of rhythm (at about the same time). At least with writing, I can keep trying to improve.


    1. Early on, according to my father, I was ‘my own kind’ of piano player. I heard rhythm on my own wavelength. But as I aged I became a one-man Tangerine Dream, which required a lot of echoes and an ambient sensibility more than nailing 4 on the floor. I suppose that’s why synths appealed to me. A whole new palette with no rules. As for the missing folk singer moment – I’m that old, too.

      “Ah, but we were so much older then, we’re younger than that now.”


  3. Do you think the general speed of our society adds an extra obstacle? It’s impossible to keep up if you stand still for only a couple moments. I don’t believe humanity’s evolution stage, if you will, is ready for this speed. I mean we’re not any different from people of antiquity. Hell, most people today cannot understand classical works. So maybe we’ve actually devolved. From apes we came and to apes we shall return. I think that’s why there is so much anxiety. We travel further in one day than many traveled their whole lives. You bust your crack at a particular skill, only to look up and find yourself obsolete. Not that any of this absolves people of the need to work hard. They just want their trophy, right here and now, before time moves on in the next minute. That, and laziness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Speed is one thing, the lowest common denominator another. I hear every day about students who have passed the minimum scholastic tests to keep government money streaming who spend more time negotiating for a grade than doing their work. The no child left behind program. Also I think, If blame we’re the issue, I’d point to collaborative mentality as well, designed to keep the person who fucked up ass out of the fire. No personal responsibility. Everyone’s a winner, here’s your trophy. All that plays into instant gratification. But it is an age old problem over magnified today by cheap storage and the ability to home brew and the old ‘Hell, Ah kin do thayat” mentality. True professionals work at it. Unfortunately many don’t know how or understand that process as it relates to the arts. Nobody wants a sloppy surgeon or a-took-six-attempts-to-pass-the-bar lawyer. But anybody can write a best seller in one draft. Maybe get a friend who took a continuing ed pottery class to eyeball typos and comma splices. Can’t they?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Music has gone clip art. All you need to do hit SoundCloud. I’m waiting for novel clip art sentences. You know, dialog, drag in a tag, pick an adverb. Load up a bunch of “In the moment” filler word fluff. Drag and drop your next novel! Start with the action library, or everyone’s favorite the cozy mystery, add phrase libraries as you go!


  4. I knew there was a reason why I hated those fancy covers blogs where you go to pick your particular cover…then asked yourself how to stop anyone else from picking the same for their own book…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I find writing a book to be very hard work, Phil. There is the research, and every book requires some research even if its not historical or sci-fi, and then there is the self editing. I send mine to a very good and harsh developmental editor and that results in massive rewrites and changes and then it goes back for more comments. I then also re-read the whole book and self edit before sending it for proofing and then it goes to my editor who also has a go at editing. I must re-write and edit at least 9 times before the book gets published. A lot of hard work. Both my sons play musical instruments. The older one plays the piano and the younger plays the drums. They both have to practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Practice is as important as listening. “Music happens between the notes.”
      You have a copy of Lanham’s “Revising Prose”? If not, buy one. Best $ you’ll ever spend on self editing.

      Liked by 1 person

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