Wrong Place, Wrong Time?

An associate said to me the other day that it was a terrible time to be a writer. No one really reads short stories anymore and people would rather watch a movie or television than read a book. Technology has made our old forms of literature obsolete. Libraries are quickly disappearing due to the Internet and open source materials offer as much free reading material as one cares to ingest. Writers scrape the bottom of the “celebrity food chain” far, far, far below musicians, television stars, movie stars, and sports stars. Most students leave schools loathing literature and proudly proclaim their insistence never to pick up a book again. No, my associate insisted, writers don’t seem to matter much these days…

I couldn’t disagree more.

Now is the perfect time to be a writer. Look around. The economy is about to cave in on itself like a dying star, our government exists in a constant state of unrest, and the entire world teeters on the tip of a needle between civil unrest and complete anarchy. The world needs writers now more than ever.

No one needs writers when things are going well. It’s in the darkest hours, the hours where no light exists, that writers do their best work. Look at all the great literature that came out of the World War II era. Writers excel in times of tragedy. I wish I could remember the exact quote, but John Updike once said (more or less) “Literature is a mirror that gets up and walks around and shows society its own reflection.”

Technology is always changing the way literature reaches the masses (printing press, anyone?). What’s important isn’t the vehicle to transfer the message to the masses but the message itself. If anything, technology has simply made it easier and faster for that message to get where it’s going. We need writers now – good writers – writers who have something to say, writers who are willing to hold up the mirror.

I always thought maybe I had been born in the wrong time period, that my unique personality traits would have served me better in an earlier time when literature still mattered to people. Now I see I’m right where I’m supposed to be – right in the thick of things. No, it’s the perfect time to be a writer, the perfect time…

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~ by themoderntranscendentalist on October 19, 2011.

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