Monday, February 24, 2014

Sour Grapes Make a Horrible Whine

On February 21, 2014, the Huffington Post's UK edition published an opinion piece by
Lynn Shepherd entitled "If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It."

This piece smells a bit like rancid click bait to me. I hope it is, for otherwise it means that Shepherd actually believes that a successful person should quit to clear the path for others.

The gist of the article is that because JK Rowling became enormously successful writing her young adult series about Harry Potter, then she should stop trying to write other types of fiction. Shepherd attempts to defend the notion that Rowling's subsequent ventures into other types of fiction aren't fair to other writers and those writers' chances of being published. In short: Rowling got her money already so now she needs to stay away so others can get theirs too.

[Read the original article here]

I'll ignore my confusion about why she focuses solely on Rowling, a legitimate writer who didn't have her success handed to her, and not on the many celebrity "authors" whose ghost-written books become best-sellers simply because the smiling face on the cover is a familiar TMZ fixture.

Even if you expand Shepherd's premise to include all known, marketable names, it still fails the sniff test and reveals a foundational jealousy and insecurity. Whether she intended to do so or not, Shepherd implies that the only reason she (and other writers at her success level) aren't populating the best-seller list is because they aren't named JK Rowling (or Snooki, or whoever).

Is that the world in which we want to live? One where you don't strive to improve and surpass your competition, but rather beg your competition to withdraw?

What a sad message to send out into the world: "You can't succeed in an endeavor because someone else is successful in the same field."

Apply that defeatist notion elsewhere and the absurdity is obvious. Perhaps each year's Cy Young Award winner should retire so as to open up a roster spot for a young pitcher in AAA who really, really (pretty please) wants to pitches in the majors.

Perhaps it's high time for Jennifer Lawrence to retire at 23-years-old so that some other kid can star in the next "Hunger Games." At the very least, Lawrence should do the gracious, accomodating thing and stick to a single genre. After all, Lawrence's success doesn't mean she possesses a unique talent that the paying public enjoys. It probably just means that she's a lucky individual among many other equally skilled and interchangeable actresses

I, for one, wouldn't want my success to rely on the voluntary departure of all competition. It will feel even better if/when I finally earn success over competitively tougher odds.

I also know for sure that competition breeds innovation. Without the heavyweights of literature, or sports, or film as goals, inspirations and aspirations, our society would be left with only middle-of-the-road performances. We would all suffer as a result. Advancements would cease if we forced a ceiling on success. It's impossible to play leap frog with nothing left to leap over.

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