The Writing Life

You’ve been working hard at mastering the craft since you won second place in a grade six spelling bee. When you find an award-winning novel you consider a masterpiece, after reading the last page you begin again. You read until the artistry is revealed. Awe is followed by angst: can I really pull off something as good? Still, you keep writing. Finally, after years of study and practice, you feel you know a bit, your narrative tool box is stuffed full of tools and tricks, you’re edging closer to the prize. You listen to talks given by literary agents about the state of publishing today and are somewhat deflated but not at all surprised to hear that blogs are good, chat rooms are important, also tweeting; artful prose isn’t necessarily enough, these days one needs personal digital currency.

So you try to embrace what’s required, you visit chat rooms, start a blog and sign up for Twitter. It’s like the 90s when you had hundreds of albums, a library you’d been collecting since Neil Young released Heart of Gold. But then the technology changed and all that glorious music became outmoded because CDs were the new thing. Time to bring in the new; you believed the promises and bought the new stereo system so you could play the cheaper-priced CD’s and gradually built up another modest collection of music. And then the process morphed yet again. This time it was iPods—and people became fed up with all the profit manipulation and began downloading music for free, which you refused to do. But back to the writing. In the last few years you’re meeting so many people who are interested in self-publishing. They have little or no understanding of what actually goes into the craft but never mind, they’ve spent their lives consuming story through various media and perhaps the ability has seeped into their DNA. They’re flocking to self-publishing seminars with their memoirs and family histories. With a bit of money, they, too, can go through an online publishing house and call themselves an author. Gone are the days when a select few gate keepers decide which stories will find an audience and which authors get to be on the hallowed shelves of the library. Publishing has exploded. In principle, you support all this democratization, the yanking of controls from the hands of the few. So why do you feel so disgusted?

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