How To Not Write A Novel, Part II: The NEA Fallowship Program

Since becoming writers in the field of writing-manual writing, we have grown increasingly aware of a situation that threatens the financial and spiritual well-being of writers everywhere.

Where there were once hundreds of novels written for every one that was published, the ease of self-publishing and the lure of celebrity has increased that number to thousands, if not tens of thousands. Add to this the innumerable MFA programs springing up on campuses all over the country like mushrooms springing up on campuses all over the country, from each of which springs each spring like a river a freshet of fresh young novelists, each of them novel, yet the same, and each of them driven, wound tightly like a spring inside a watch that is driven by a spring, ready to tick off the pages of their novels like the seconds on that watch, the chapters like the minutes, and whole new novels like The Hours, and we face a state of affairs that we as writers can no longer ignore: there are simply too many novels.

With this in mind, we have forwarded to the National Endowment for the Arts a proposal for a new program. Taking our lead from the US Department of Agriculture, we believe that the American taxpayer’s money–your money–should no longer be used to subsidize the writing of any more novels. Rather, we propose that the NEA immediately begin awarding writers grants to not write novels.

We do not suggest this lightly, and we would not want the NEA to lower its standards for awarding grants in the slightest.

Only the most avant garde, risk-taking writers of the highest literary merit should be paid not to write; only those who have proven through hard and diligent effort that they have thoroughly incorporated all that their MFA programs had to teach them should receive financial reward for refraining from writing.

It is not only society that would benefit: these writers would improve as writers, regenerating and becoming loamier ground in which a novel might grow, like fields left fallow. Two or three years later, when that writer has turned his mind to not writing his next novel, he would find that he was not writing an even better, richer novel than the novel he did not previously write.

We hope you support us in our efforts to stop novels from being written; in fact, we hope that you will help. For this program to be fully successful, it cannot be a burden shouldered entirely by the taxpayer. Like all the great government programs of recent years–not bringing birth control to those who need it; not caring for the sick; not catching Osama bin Laden–for this to work, it must be a public/private partnership.

Consider changing your will, and making a bequest to your alma mater, or another institution of higher learning, conditional on closing their MFA program. Consider endowing a chair in creative writing that will contractually remain empty. We have begun the fight to stop any more novels from being produced, but that is just a beginning. With your help, we dream that we might someday prevent any more novelists from being produced.

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