“…the best chance to be whole is to love whatever gets in the way, until it ceases to be an obstacle.”
– Mark Nepo
I’ve been following a lot of news about writers these days and I keep running into a common theme among all of the articles I have been reading that at this point I could no longer ignore.
Now, let me tell you the exact and precise message I have been hearing in the news about the changes that are happening in the publishing industry that may affect writers:
“Armageddon has arrived!”
“The publishing industry is going to collapse and be replaced by a hologram of will.i.am!”
“Bookstores will turn into Jimmy Choo shoe stores over night!”
“Kindles will start eating your babies!”
“Literary agents will have to take jobs as leprechauns!”
“Because of blogging, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the world will suddenly have the bright idea to become a writer and snatch away your next book contract just as soon as you are going to sign it!”
“OOOOH!!! OOOH!!! BE AFRAID!!! BE VERY AFRAID!!!”
Riiiiight. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve probably come to notice one of my biggest pet peeves: fear mongering. And isn’t “fear” the message that is REALLY being spread in those “news” articles? Isn’t “fear” the message that is being passed down to us writers, already struggling to punch out a dream onto a laptop screen? On top of all the challenges we writers face, must we also be manipulated into being TERRIFIED about all the new stuff that’s coming out, and be forced to see, for instance, E-books as our enemy or Social Media as Satan’s lap dog?
No. I don’t think so.
Now, let’s talk about the truth without all the sensationalist headlines. Let talk about what’s actually happening.
It’s a very long and complicated explanation, so bear with me. Here it is:
Times are changing.
Yup. That’s all. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but what I can tell you for sure is that writers will NOT all spontaneously combust at the end of 2012.
First of all, I studied Mayan civilization in college (okay it was just a quarter, but it was very intensive) and it was very clear to me that the Mayans didn’t believe 2012 was doomsday. They saw it as a moment of great change and transformation. Therefore, those people who think the world will end in 2012 are misinterpreting the signs.
A similar misinterpretation seems to be happening in regards to the publishing industry. People are mistaking a time of great transformation for total Armageddon. When the truth is that the publishing industry isn’t dying–it’s evolving and The Writer is evolving with it.
You see, when something evolves, it takes time, and, yes, sometimes there are scary setbacks.
It’s like when a baby who’s trying to crawl for the first time falls on his face and you want to help him up, but you know the baby has to learn how to get up all on his own. That’s what’s happening right now.
But, even so, people are still afraid of all the new changes. For instance, people fear that the digital age means more competition for writers.
(Raises hand in crowded classroom. Camera zooms in.)
But–hasn’t there always been a lot of competition? And isn’t it better this way, because it will be easier for fans to find the authors they like, and it will be easier for authors to find the fans they like? And isn’t the fact of whether a writer has mass appeal dependent on the writer’s work and not on how many people he can reach?
For example, I’ve never heard of anyone recommending a book that was terrible, so it stands to reason that it will mostly be the best works that will get attention in a new, digital, reality. In fact, the new digital reality might cut back on the presence of mass-produced garbage that was once approved by a single, absentminded publisher, because now an author would have to earn widespread appeal from an audience before anyone would ever bother publishing or promoting his or her work.
Still, I suppose, this new reality scares some people.
You might be asking: “Ollin, are YOU afraid?”
My answer is: “Frak no.”
I’m not afraid. In fact, I’m incredibly excited. The truth is, as soon as you ignore the “chicken little’s” of the news, it will become very clear to you, too, that this is the best time for writers in the whole history of the world.
Are you kidding me?
There are SO many more opportunities for us today than there has ever been in the history of the world. Cash-strapped writers can now publicize and promote their books on Twitter and Facebook for–catch this–ZERO DOLLARS. Writers can build a loyal fan base for their fiction books ACROSS THE WORLD for a total of–catch this other one–ZERO DOLLARS. Writers can share their thoughts and ideas, engage in interesting conversations with people they COULD NEVER AFFORD to visit in person, and form new connections and collaborations over a vast expanse of space with–catch this last one–A COST OF ZERO DOLLARS.
This was never even HEARD of a decade ago, and I will not allow for the “Debbie Downers” of the news to distract me from all the amazing, inventive and exciting things that are happening in today’s world that are of a HUGE BENEFIT to writers.
So if you, too, have been caught up in all of the over-hyped “doom and gloom,” I want you to take a breather and step back into reality: the truth is that you are living during one of the most exciting, inventive, and transformative times in the whole history of the world, and on top of that, there is no better time to be a writer than TODAY.
So, if you’re moaning and groaning about how bad writers are going to have it in the future: stop complaining. Edgar Allen Poe would have killed to have the deal we writers have today. (It certainly would have helped Ed with his drinking problem, that’s for sure.)
There are only two options we writers have as we step forward into this brave, new, digital world. There will be those of us who will choose to resist the change and therefore believe that “The Writer” is dead. You’ll pack a bunch of canned peaches, set up a mattress in your basement, and wait for an asteroid to hit. Then, there are those of us who will choose to embrace the coming changes. We’ll adapt, we’ll evolve, and as we embrace the new realities of the modern age, we will give ourselves the chance to rise much higher than we could have ever done in any other age.
I leave you today with a link to an article about Conan O’Brien, one of the best comedy writers of our time. The article does an amazing job of illustrating O’Brien’s sharp fall and his subsequent, light-speed resurrection. It tells the story of how O’Brien decided to embrace social media and the changes of the 21st Century (instead of claiming it was doomsday for his career) and rose to become one of the most successful and most popular Late Night talk show hosts of today–all while making history and becoming a legend in the process.
After reading his story you’ll want to ditch all those people who keep saying that the sky is falling and, instead, join Conan, me, and the rest of us as we do our little string dance.
much “I’m on Team Coco,”
What do you think? Are writers headed for Doomsday? Or do you agree with me that this party is just getting started?
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