A recent post of mine may have sent some budding writers into a black despair about the fact that, relatively speaking, nobody in America reads all that much. “It’s a futile endeavor!” is the impression I may have left in people’s minds.
This was not my intention.
While it is true that “If it’s not on a screen, it doesn’t happen,” this is only germane to the discussion depending on what your mission as a writer is. Perhaps this is the key point I failed to include in my post. In that case, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
I leave you with three clarifying points:
One: If your goal is to write a book, then write a book. Don’t let me or anyone else stop you. Listen: if I thought that writing was futile, why would I devote my time, energy, and money to it? As author John C. Wright put it so eloquently in this post, maybe your book doesn’t sell in mass quantities, but someday at some point, somebody whose existence you are not aware of reads your book and is inspired to do great things. We see things like this happen with music and with art, and we also see it happen with writing. Write your book. We need more good books out there. Forget the talk of “The marketplace is crowded!” or “Americans don’t read!” or “Only movies and TV matter!” This will leads into my next point
Two: Where do you think so many ideas for movies and television shows come from? In my opinion, books are tied with oral storytelling as the deepest, most intellectual, and most important form of storytelling out there. Stories are so fundamental to human existence, they may even be more powerful that my first love music. Adding to this is the fact that novelists, at least the ones who produce, tend to be among the most disciplined, focused, and hard-working type of artist. Writing a book is difficult. There are no assistants. No money you can throw at it. No tasks you can delegate. It’s just you and your writing implement of choice struggling to get what is in your head on the page.
“But movies are hard to make!” Sure. But without a good script, a pretty, fancy movie filled with beautiful people is still awful. Writing is the root upon which those other, more widely consumed artforms relies upon. Keep writing. Filmmakers are lazy. They love using stories that are already written for them so they can get to the visual component.
Three: If your mission is to write books—and if you’re a writer, this should be priority number 1—then write books. If your mission is to change the culture, then you’ve got to branch out once your books are written. Either use these books as bait to entice other artists in other mediums to work with you, or use your books as leverage, a resume if you will, to parlay writing novels into other gigs in the types of entertainment media that really makes an impact.
In the absence of any meaningful high culture, pop culture is all we’ve got. You might not like it, but you’ve got to learn it, live it, and love it. After all, as I have said many times before, if you really want to change the world, go into entertainment.
I understand why my earlier post was misinterpreted. Despair is in the air because, let’s face it, most everything is pretty bad. But merely pointing out reality shouldn’t get you down. I’m also trying to point out what to do next.
Phase II is upon us.