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Illogical Positivism

A J Ayer ( I think) made the point that there is nothing you can say that would disprove the existence of God to a person who believes in him: belief is unverifiable. (It’s a long time since I read his Language Truth and Logic but bear with me on this.) Along the same lines there is nothing you can say to a writer that will make us satisfied: satisfaction is unattainable. Yeah, I know these two statements are only stylistically related, but in both cases there are no objective facts that can change the opinion of the believer or the writer. I’ll explain.

If you write a book and you can’t sell either directly or to an agent/publisher then you are sad and believe you have no talent. Even your mother and best friend saying how much they love it is unlikely to change your mind. If you sell the book to the agent/publisher, but not to the top selling retail outlets you are still be sad and believe you have no talent. You tell yourself that your work is too classy to be commercial, but you don’t really believe it. If you sell the book to the agent/publisher, the top selling retail outlets and very few readers buy it then – yes, you can see where I’m going here – you are sad and believe you have no talent. You can blame the promotion, the cover design, the unfortunate release date and the declining attention spans of the populace who can’t take in anything longer than 140 characters but methinks you doth protest too much. Even writers who sell books by the shed-load to readers the world over are sad and believe they have no talent because they fail to gain literary prizes. Then the ones whose books have achieved everything, like the famous, castle-inhabiting writer of a mega selling children's series, think it’s all probably a bit of a fluke and try to write something else under an assumed name so that those books will fail to sell and then they can be sad and believe they have no talent. We are as a body a tragic, if self selecting, group.

Occasionally you meet arrogant writers who believe the opposite, but as a rule of thumb (in my humble opinion etc) pretty well everyone who does this is either American (and constitutionally obliged to be excessively confident,) a certain type of privileged male, and/or quasi-

illiterate. They are rarely right. Most writers who are any good, recognise all the ways they could be better and those who think they are brilliant, don’t really grasp what it is to be good. There will be exceptions and if you are an American, a certain type of man or quasi illiterate (and managing somehow to make it through this contorted prose) don’t have a go at me, I am already sad and know I have no talent.

I am impressed by illogical positivism (You go girl! Yay!) but don't try to cheer me up. Once you have accepted the logic of negativity, it frees up a lot of time for writing.