Like every other writer, he measured other men’s virtues by what they had accomplished, yet asked that other men measure him by what he someday planned to do–Borges
The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant has an impressive catalog of literary masterpieces we have never written: game-changing Great American Novels; transcendent criticism; searing political analysis; genre-defining comedy; heartbreaking tragedy. In our youth we would read the effort of an author, sneer, and think, “just wait, you have no idea what’s coming.”
They still have no idea what’s coming because nothing ever comes. Writers love to talk about their craft and process and the difficulties of creation all so they don’t have to write anything. We agree with Dorothy Parker: the best part of writing is having written. The Rant can ride on the coattails of a printed piece for years to avoid sitting down to work again.
One of the great temptations of our culture resides in what we would call the Car Wreck Fallacy. Let us posit that your next door neighbor has spent years building a car. They have machined all the parts and patiently crafted the body. The beautiful result sits in the driveway and you ask the owner to take the car for a spin. What she doesn’t know is you have placed cameras all around a brick wail. You drive the car into said wall and post to YouTube. The viral result has everyone declaring you a genius. What will you destroy next?
Exhaustively dismantling the hard work of others is not creativity, it is merely time-consuming. An enormous amount of the internet has dedicated itself to this endeavor. Many have discovered ways to monetize it. An entire segment of the economy exists to become angry, snarky, and despondent over the people actually out there doing things.
The Rant has no problem with criticism, from the serious to that which bites. We like to believe we do just that.1 But genuine criticism works to create context and say something original and offer new ways at looking at the world. It should spark new appreciations or raise new questions or allow us to laugh at what we value and defend.
The Rant used to believe wrecking others’ cars stemmed from meanness or jealousy. But now we wonder if it doesn’t simply stem from a sense of frustration of how hard creating something new can be; car wrecking becomes a shortcut to convince yourself that you are just as skilled and dedicated as the person working and sweating and persevering to put something new into the world. Hand back the keys, set up shop, and do the work.