Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writer's Optimism, the Sequel

I’ve already talked about writers who act like martyrs, like being a writer is such a hard and pleasure-less thing. Now I’m going to discuss pessimism about the world of publishing.

Authors complain that people don’t read as much as they used to. In reality, literacy rates are higher now than they’ve ever been throughout the entire course of history. I don't know when people used to read more than they do now.

Authors complain that the quality of books is lower than it used to be. Scholars and graduates are reading as many quality books as they used to, but because we have so many non-scholars that are reading now, we have to accommodate to them. Publishing easy reads encourages all people to read, including people who don't want to read deep stuff all the time. This is a wonderful thing.

The United States publishes an average of 275,000 books a year. That’s more than has ever been published before. Because of self-publishing and how easy it is to communicate with agents, it’s easier to get published than ever. The competition is fierce, but that’s only because so many people are literate and educated. More people are writing than ever before. How could anyone be upset over this?

Since Borders is going bankrupt and many small bookstores are closing their doors, writers all over are panicking. They assume this means people aren’t reading anymore. We’re in a recession, for heaven’s sake. Countless businesses are closing their doors. Many small grocery stores are going out of business because chain stores are taking over, but that doesn’t mean people eat less than they used to.

There is so much in the publishing industry to be grateful for.
1.       You don’t have to have a college degree or any writing experience; you just have to write a good book.
2.      If you want a degree, education is so wide-spread and community colleges are so cheap that it’s there for the taking.
3.      People are more open-minded than ever before, so you can write just about anything you want. Your book won’t get burned in a bonfire because it’s too radical.
4.      Because of the Internet and airplanes, it’s easier to reach readers and to promote a book than ever before.
5.      You can be a woman and your skin can be any color. No one will refuse you because of who you are.

I am very optimistic about the writing world. It’s a dynamic, living entity that is growing and improving at rapid speeds. I'm grateful that I live in one of the very rarest of circumstances in the world that allows me to be a writer. There’s only one thing in that could possibly keep me from being successful:

Talent.

Maybe that's the real reason writers are so pessimistic. Maybe it's easier to pretend that the problem is with the world and not with ourselves.


Blog Post of the Day: Nathan Bransford on ebooks versus traditional publishing, and a followup article on the same topic.
Teralyn Pilgrim

3 comments:

  1. It's a good thing that you're so darn talented, because you completely, totally, definitely are. I've known this since 6th grade. You are such a talented writer.

    I agree - I hate it when people have an attitude of "things are going downhill in the world". As a historian, I know that this view is completely false. Some things are better, some things are worse, some things stay the same.

    I think I've told you that one of my favorite BYU professors is in our ward in PG. My mom told me that on Sunday they were talking at church about technology and the idea of the internet being potentially the degradation of society, and my professor shared that when the Gutenberg press was invented, people were worried that would be the end of morality because everyone would be able to have access to large amounts of information. It's all about perspective.

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  2. In writing, like everything else, talent can only take you so far. Anyone can learn to write, you just have to write, and write, and WRITE! It also helps to have someone who can edit your writing, so you know what you need to improve. I'm a fairly talented writer, and I know there's still plenty of stuff I need to keep improving.

    I think Teralyn hit it right on the nail: people want to place the blame and responsibility for their lack of success (or confidence to try) on the rest of the world. And that's not limited to troubled writers; it's a nation-wide epidemic! There's only one solution: drop the pity-party attitude and get to work!

    As for the problem of quality literature, we, the writers, are the only ones who can change things! If you want to see more 'quality literature' then write it! It'll be hard, but if you're serious about it, you'll get there eventually.

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  3. I like your list of reasons to be grateful. I think it is better to look on the changes in the publishing industry with a positive attitude. I think that there are so many opportunities for writers to get their voices out there now.

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