The Immaculate Conception is a term I use for those people who believe that writing needs to come from a pure place, that true art is conceived without worldly sin. What that pure place is varies from person to person, but it can be anywhere from expression of self, catharsis, or even “a love of fiction” (whatever that means.)
But, like a real immaculate conception, that shit doesn’t happen nowadays. Unlike the real immaculate conception, I know for a fact it never has.
For starters, even if a book were to be born free from sin, no one would ever see it. The reason why we write and the reason why we get published are two very separate things. If an author is not trying to get some sort of recognition, whether it be money, love, or respect, there’s no reason to get published. Sure, we might say a writer wants to expose a problem to the world, but that just makes his goal even more about getting readers to like and love his work. He might be doing it for the “right reasons,” but it does not change that a person must have some form of narcissism to believe that he’s the one who should make the change. Though I personally applaud that, if it’s a question of being born without sin, then ego is a big one.
Furthermore, it’s important to recognize why people want to believe in the Immaculate Conception. There we’ll find another reason why it is impossible for a book to be born without sin; the definition of sin keeps changing. One of the reasons why this idea is so frustrating is that it is about snobbery, not quality. People enjoy believing in the elitist world of the artist, thinking of them like kings of yore. The true author has a God-given right to rule. They are meant to be great, and those peasants who were not born into it (e.g. with innate talent) should not try.
Of course, that is an exaggeration of magnitude, people’s belief being less exaggerated than my dramatization, but the sentiment’s still there. We like to utilize motivation as a reason why a person shouldn’t be trying: “You’re doing it for the wrong reasons and so you’re doomed to failure.”
But what that means is that “the wrong reasons,” are centered around a post-excuse, not a preexisting truth. Like someone trying to legitimize why they don’t want to wear their seat belt, the feeling of “wrong” is there first and then they try to explain why. Thus it is impossible to prevent judgment because the judgment is already there and the excuses arise to fit the circumstance. If the author says he is writing as a catharsis, the reader says that it should be for a love of fiction. If the author says he is writing for the love of fiction, the reader says that it should be to expose a problem in the world. There is no right answer, which is why that same person who says a book needs to only be made for the right reasons will also be the person who denounces self-publishing. The contradiction, from my eyes, being that if the author does not have any foul intention of making money and receiving respect, then self-publishing might be the way to go.
Now, I actually do believe that when a person feels something first and then tries to gather evidence proving their point, it’s a viable way to go. In an argument, the problem isn’t that they are trying to prove what they already thought, but that they are leaving out their real reasons in the argument because they know it isn’t convincing: “I don’t want to wear my seatbelt because it is uncomfortable, a nuisance, and I don’t think anything is actually going to happen.” Instead they say something that is, if not more irrational, less arguable: “What if I am in a lake and I can’t get my seatbelt off?”
But the issue here is that, though an author’s motivation can affect the story, it is rarely noticeable enough to be criticized before the author admits to the why. And it’s not the big picture motivation that affects it the most. A story with forced dialogue isn’t bad because the author wanted to make money; the dialogue is forced because the author’s only trying to deliver information.
Lastly the assumption behind the Immaculate Conception is that people only have one reason for writing. A person who finishes a book has thousands. People who only want to make money won’t. A person who only loves fiction won’t. A person who only wants to get it off his bucket list won’t. In order to write a full book the author has to enjoy writing just a little. He has to feel proud and anticipate feeling pride. He has to foresee wondrous rewards forthcoming. He has to have something he wants to say that he can’t anywhere else, and he has to believe that no matter how crappy it’s coming out, he can and will make it better. Making money may not be a priority, getting fans may not even be in the top ten, but the desire, no matter who you are or how much you write, is still there.
But this article is not for those people who have faith in elitism. It is a form of comfort that we utilize to say, “I am different.” Many do it. Most of us don’t even realize when we’re doing it. And, quite frankly, someone’s belief in the Immaculate Conception does not affect why I write. The point to this article, and what I hope to achieve, is to reveal to ever author and aspiring author, that people think this way, and we have to take that into consideration while writing.
Now what you do with this knowledge is up to you. You may even believe that there is good that comes from this exclusiveness; that better books will come from it. My opinion is, however, that we should do unto others as they would onto us, but that we should not expect the same in return. Which is to say, if an author writes a book without the purest of intentions, he should forgive others for doing the same, but he should also remember that there are those who will judge him when he announces, “I want to write a good book.” Sometimes he should just keep his mouth shut.