Friday, October 15, 2010

Don't mention the money

Babbage has an interesting post about the recent New York Tech Meetup and how it has its own "peculiar etiquette, which is that there are certain questions that you simply do not ask." The writer discusses two no-no questions, which boil down to How will you reach a reasonably large audience? and Aren't you doomed to fail because so-and-so is already doing it? S/he then goes on:

A third question you must never—but really never—pose at a Tech Meetup is "How will you make any money?"


The rationale for all these rules [...] is that early-stage start-ups are such delicate flowers that they should be exposed only to optimism and positive vibes, lest they wilt and die in the bright glare of critical thinking.

That, then, is another respect in which start-ups are like movies: they require a temporary suspension of disbelief. Such willing credulity is, especially to a Brit like me, still rather alien—or, dare I whisper it, American. But it is of course what makes an entrepreneurial society possible. And the main lesson from an NY Tech Meetup is that there is a simply astonishing concentration of talented people in this city sparking off each others' ideas and inventing countless ingenious new services...

This is what it feels like to teach new writers: entering into a mutual suspension of disbelief regarding the real world. Or, rather, as a teacher, deliberately fostering belief in the writers' ability to defy that reality. It's one of the primary skills of being a novelist: psychotic self-belief and willful commitment to the impossible--because, y'know, it *might* work. A million other people have tried it, but *I* will succeed.

Hurling oneself at the void, knowing we can do it, knowing we can make it happen--it's where all art comes from.

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