The Lighthouse Effect

November 7, 2009

My partner (in crime, in writing, in life, love and raising a spoiled rotten dog) sent me a link to a fabulously witty blog today.  A young lady who claims to be fighting brilliance with a daily dose of mediocrity wrote it with charm and humor.   Frankly, I think she’s doing herself a huge disservice.  I found nothing mediocre about her blog, but the premise set me to wondering which of two choices a writer should strive for:  A steady diet of words that might at times seem mediocre, or infrequent and carefully crafted literary offerings of outstanding brilliance.  After all, it does seem like we need to make that choice.  How many of us can meet the goal of frequent genius?

Constant mediocrity has its advantages.  Even if we don’t have anything profound to say, we need to keep our names out there.  Mediocrity coupled with skillful marketing succeeds in this world.  Take a look at pop music and try to deny it.  You can’t honestly tell me I’m wrong, can you?

There’s much to be said in favor of keeping one’s name, face and craft “out there”.  Fame is fleeting in the modern world.  If the public loses sight of you for half a day, you’re history.  Daily exposure seems to succeed just as well as – if not better than – true genius.

But what about art?  What about the craft we’re all striving to perfect and excel at?  There’s my dilemma.  It’s a moral dilemma.  It’s a matter of principle.

I call flashes of sudden brilliance “the Lighthouse Effect”.  We’ve all seen it.  We’ve all run across writers whose names are by no means household words.  We don’t see their books in those specifically-sized paperback racks next to the magazines in grocery stores.   Their tales aren’t made into Hollywood blockbusters, and they aren’t even published in Playboy where so many great authors got their start.   But their works are sudden flashes of brilliance in the gray of the literary sea we’re all swimming in.

Michael Schiavone comes to mind.  You MUST check out his work.  Google him.   His short, “No One Comes Up Here By Accident” took my breath away.   I was so swept up in his story that I emailed him, which I never do, truth be told.  His was a story of brutal honesty; it was so real and amazing and genuine that I had to tell him how it affected me.  (Michael, “I could live in Bo” resonates with me daily.)  Truly one of those sudden flashes of clarity and light and perfection – the Lighthouse Effect at its finest.  I’m sure it isn’t his only amazing story, but it was the one that hit me viscerally.  Brilliant.  Sublime.  I don’t have enough superlatives for it.

So, do I want to be a Pop Star writer?  One who vomits a steady stream of words into the public consciousness for the sake of being there?  Or do I want to be a lighthouse?  Not a part of the everyday landscape, but when visible is seen from great distances and admired for its incandescence?

I want daily incandescence.  A lofty goal, that’s for sure, and one that few writers ever achieve.  But I believe in lofty goals and I believe in achieving them.

So please bear with me while I spew daily mediocrity.  Wait for a flash of Blood brilliance.  It’ll come, I promise.  Eventually.   Hopefully.


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