Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Writer's Demise?

Based on a few thought provoking articles I've read recently there are two schools of thought on the publishing industry. One being that it's rapidly going in the direction of the recording industry, which one could interpret as more "freedom" for the artist. The other camp points to the fact that the majority of services that are making self publishing easily accessible to today's writer are run by huge corporations who, let's be honest, do not generally have the writer's interests as their central focus (unless by interest you mean money.) Either way lends itself to the premise that the fall of the publishing industry will be quickly followed by the elimination of the writer as a profession.

How could that be? In the democratized world of the Internet were everyone now has the ability to write and publish their own content, it makes the practice a little less special. Not only does it take the mystery out of the process, it also shrinks the cachet. Wearing a black turtleneck and sauntering into a party as a writer isn't so impressive to people anymore. In fact the caterer and valet probably have better blogs than you and probably write more often.

So does that make writing as a profession go away? No, but could it be less valuable since everyone has the capacity to do it? Maybe in the short term. There's actually a movement to halt some writing and publishing because there's too much out there and much of it isn't very good. The real rubbish is that belief. Telling a writer to stop writing akin to telling someone to stop breathing. Sure, they can try for a little while, but they turn purple and irritated very quickly. While it's true there's a good amount of junk out there, there always has been. I would guess the percentage is the same, though the numbers are larger. Let's go with the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the writing you're reading is probably mediocre or worse, and twenty percent is probably pretty good. (that may even hold true for this post).

What's going through transformation is the fall of the gatekeepers. In traditional publishing there are filters, from selected agents, to a cadre of specialty editors who move writers from good to great. Without those gatekeepers you see things unfiltered, rife with errors. You also come across genius and ingenuity that just a few years ago would have been squelched. It's like panning for gold. You could use some help deciding which stream to step into, but you have to get your own hands wet to find some treasure.

So how does the writer now stand out? I suspect the same way as they always have. Be a better writer. Work on the craft as well as your passion, everyday. Also remember, just because your writing is good there's no guarantee it will be read. The word is full of people, but many of them are still illiterate. That's why today's writer has to be professional. Not only in the discipline of writing, but also in the skills of marketing, negotiating, finance and public interactions. The writer shouldn't allow themselves to be mockable. Being a professional to everyone, particularly readers, will ensure the writer's profession remains an important role in our society.