I was reading Ervin Anderson’s post right before mine and he mentioned writing everyday. It made me think about my own writing habits. I, too, write everyday but in a different way than someone with my same passions and ambitions might have done 20 years ago.
It got me thinking about how there was once a time when literacy was a specialized and well-paid-for skill. And even later still, ‘authors’ were the few and the talented. Now-a-days, anyone with Internet is a writer, in some sense of the word. Anyone with Twitter or a blog is a news reporter. And anyone with an iPhone is a film-maker.
But, of course, talent and passion still counts for something. No matter how much the medium changes and evolves, a gifted storyteller with more passion than Cupid’s arrow will be invaluable in making sure that creativity continues on in top form. But how do we, as writers, take advantage of these new mediums? If you’re on this site, obviously you’ve already taken the first step. The Internet allows us to easily give and receive feedback on our writing as long as we are open to it. Do you know how hard it is to get your friends to read your work sometimes? Especially those who ‘don’t read’ unless it’s Harry Potter (true story)? The Internet sparks wonderful places like this where people are not only willing to read your work and give constructive criticism–it’s an activity they’re actively seeking.
And then there’s the new new stuff that’s breeding whole new ways to tell a story. Let’s take Twitter for example. One guy tweeted his whole novel in 140-character intervals. If you use Twitter yourself, maybe you’ve heard of Shit My Dad Says. Well, that guy is looking at a book and TV Show deal for simply posting short transcripts of what his elderly father says on a daily basis. People have gotten famous off of YouTube videos. CNN has recently started iReport to incorporate news stories from everyday citizens. The list goes on and on.
As for blogging? I got really serious about writing three summers ago when I started my first novel and this past year, after attending Stanford’s Professional Publishing Course, I decided that I would start my own blog, The Ink Road. I had a lot of short stories, essays, and even videos from over the years that I thought would make a good compilation. An extensive writing resume, if you will. It is still in its beginning stages, but I have plans for new things in the future. Take, for example, a project called ‘Tom’s Life’ where I will be incorporating images and videos into my writing to further bring alive my characters and fictional world. It’s also a great way to get feedback, make connections, and easily show someone samples of your work if the right person comes along. There’s also the off-hope of getting discovered like that Twitter guy or Julie Powell, who started off blogging about cooking and ended up on the big screen.
I won’t even get started on self-publishing, as it pretty much speaks for itself. And if you need convincing of its possible benefits, look no further.
Now there is a catch to all of this and something I struggle with myself. It feels….counterproductive, in a way, to give the writing away ‘for free.’ Before you get me wrong, I’m not saying that monetary gain is an important factor, but if I post a piece of work online, it may cause certain publications not to accept it, potentially reducing something that could have had the backing of an established name and reader base into something that merely receives a few hits on my blog. Or with self-publishing, it may be hard to take that leap if you’re still holding on to the hope that your manuscript could be picked up and go the traditional, more secure route. That, and the whole financial factor.
Whatever the ups and downs may be, as a writer all the new mediums are worth discovering and testing out. At some point scrolls transitioned to books and then later long-hand met the typewriter which met the laptop. While this is not saying that new mediums are better, think of it this way: there are surely authors out there who value long-hand over typing, but my bet is you’d be hard-pressed to find a serious modern-day writer who’s not at least familiar with the keyboard. Anyone who is good in his or her craft examines and analyzes the uses and benefits of all the tools in their tool shed. Well, we’re getting new tools all the time. So what are you going to do about it?
Think on it and post your thoughts below.