Despite a lack of readers, people still want to write.
They keep submitting their work to publishers and literary agencies, applying to creative writing school, composing blogs, not to mention all of the budding literary stars who someday want to write their life stories, or the great American novel. Writers simply don’t care how many people read their work. They want to write--that’s all there is to it--to say they’ve done it, to read it themselves one day, and sometimes not even that.
As a writer and publisher of my own work, I guess I should be upset by this trend. I know others are. It’s so easy to write and publish these days (take this blog; I started this piece Sunday morning, and by Monday morning it’s live to the world). All of that competition for readers’ attention can’t help but dilute the attention my work gets. Shouldn’t there be some kind of qualification to write, a litmus test of literary competence, an easier way to separate the wheat from the chafe?
I don’t think so. I think writing is a fantastic way for people to clarify their ideas, to validate themselves to themselves, to express themselves to the world.
For example, before I started writing this entry, I made a list of a half-dozen possible ideas for my blog topic today. I eventually chose one, which I’ll loosely describe as “My First Decade of Writing.” By the time I got around to writing it--literally the amount of time it takes to create a new Word file--I was second-guessing my topic. “Does anybody really care about my first decade of writing?”
Instead, I decided to write a blog outlining my tips for people who want to start writing. Still, that seemed too pretentious. In my four years as a published writer, no one has ever asked me about this. Who cares?
So, I changed my topic again: why I think it’s great so many people write and publish these days. Hence, by the time I’d written word one of this blog, I’d already winnowed my topic down from a list of six, and refined it twice.
This editing carries over to the rest of the piece. Writing is a great way to fully understand how well, or little, you grasp your ideas. A faulty sentence rings untrue; it can make you sound hot-headed, or precious, or dim-witted, or full of yourself. “That’s not what I mean,” you say upon re-reading. Refining my original topic was simply the first of dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of little revisions that go into honing my final blog entry. Sometimes, clarity is achieved simply by going from a blanket comment, like “I know,” to something more general, like “I strongly believe.” Many of us could do with having to clarify ourselves from time to time. It might keep us from doing something stupid.
If writers do one thing besides compose words, they reflect. The world could use as much of that as possible.
I strongly believe.