The other day I went to get my hair cut. My new stylist is about thirty, with a loud, infectious laugh and an endearing way of drawing out your shy writer-type with a series of questions that showed she was paying attention to the answers. I was so flattered by the whole conversation that I ended up buying three products I didn’t need and booking my next appointment six weeks out. She’s working one hell of a business model.
Anyway, when she heard I was a writer (yeah, I can’t believe I said it either), and that I’d written a sexy psycho-thriller (I know, I’m telling you the girl is good), she said, as she wrapped my wet head and shuttled me from bowl to chair: Have you read . . . You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?
Ah yes. The Fifty Shades conversation.
She swears, she resisted for a long time, but then her best friend recommended the books, and her sister, and everyone at the salon, and her fourth cousin once removed who dropped like a plum from the family tree just for the privilege of recommending these books, until finally my new friend succumbed.
She asked me what I thought, and I asked her what she thought, and then she grinned and said, You first. I told her I haven’t read the books, only excerpts which were enough to turn me off. I may have moaned something about, The writing! The writing! She seemed puzzled by this. What about the writing? It’s silly, I pleaded, riddled with cliché. The inner goddess? The unsexy sex? The millionaire and the virgin?
We talked about it for a while. I was interested to hear what she loved so much about the books. It’s the sex, of course. The campiness of the writing renders the topic safe for public consumption. It’s the cotton-candy ease of the read (stick your tongue out, little girl). It’s the zeitgeist, the groupthink, the weight of one’s peers. The books are right for the times and no amount of dissection can fully explain why.
But for me the most interesting takeaway from this conversation was the way she’d received my judgement on the quality of the writing. It was clearly the first time anyone had said to her, These books are poorly written. In all the conversations she’s had (probably with every female client), the topic of craftsmanship had never come up. It was uninteresting to her, as topics go. I felt like a vegan trying to spread the gospel of sprouts.
I think we’re alone now, writer-friends. We’re writing for each other.
Does craftsmanship even matter?