This blog post is the final installment of an adaptation of a talk I gave on April 26th at the Cameron Village Library. Prior posts focused on the future of libraries and books. In this final post, I discuss how the world is changing for writers and why we need to change how we define success as well as what it is that we are aiming for when we write.
It’s not easy being a writer in a world where the way we communicate and absorb information changes, literally, by the day. Worse, for too many writers, this is today’s reality:
It is more difficult than ever to make a living writing books. With the rise of ebooks, more people than ever are publishing even as traditional publishers offer authors smaller advances and less support for books outside the mainstream. To make a living writing good books is even harder: you can’t make big money as an author without devoting significant amounts of your time marketing your work—yet time devoted to marketing is time away from perfecting, revising, or writing your books.
Big publishers are way too fond of distracting authors in hopes we won’t notice how badly we are being treated. They do this by pitting us against one another (trust us, we’re not each other’s enemies) and by sending us off to market our own books using whatever the technique du jour may be. Maybe if we’re busy blogging or self-promoting on Facebook, we won’t notice our publisher didn’t buy a single ad or schedule a single interview for our newest book.
What do we do under these circumstances? We can start by naming it right and by claiming the power that we do have.
And what we have the power to do is control is the writing process itself, the stories we tell, what audiences we write for, and how we present our books to the public. To claim your power, start by rejecting the idea that writers are irrelevant today. As writers, we are the only people in our world who provide depth you can’t find anywhere else, depth needed to counteract the superficiality of the rest of the information we receive today. We are the only ones putting all the superficial instant messages coming at us in context and provide other people with perspective. We are the ones who connect humanity, for, absent personal contact, it is within the context of a tale that people cross demographic and geographic boundaries, to learn about one another while realizing the truth about humans: no matter where we come from, we are always more alike than we are different and we must remember to honor how we are alike if we hope to survive this world as a species.So yes, you have great power to shape the world for the better. This is my advice to those of you seeking to claim that power:
Know why you write and who you are writing for. Is it to shine a light on how to survive a crisis? Is it to inspire people to live life more fully, or to make people laugh? Don’t type a single word until you know exactly why you are writing, who you are writing for, and how you want people to react to what you have written.