I found a quote from somebody somewhere out there that said, “One day, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube will come together to make the largest site ever, [sic] it will be called YouTwitFace.”
The person who wrote this is a minor genius and deserves major credit, whoever they are (it is hard for me to tell, but you can visit the link yourself). The post came from Likes Likes, yet another website where we throw ourselves at the world screaming in text, “Hello it’s me!” Writing has become a public forum where gladiators of content beat each other to be noticed. And to my mind, the readers are too often cheated out of a good read.
The internet is an odd place to find writers in the first place. From my early years, I dreamt of being a writer because they worked in solitude, away from the eyes of the world, usually in cabins by the lake—all of them. Local people knew them only by sight, and their readers knew little about them except for the printed pieces that made it out into publication, and the little blurb beside the article or on the book jacket that told you just that slim bit of real world information the author wanted you to know about them. They shared their dreams, fears, hopes, and queerest thoughts–of course they kept themselves hidden from public scrutiny.
They worked with words, and phrases, they thought about rhythm and cadence, and the best of writers would ease you into a story or a novel like a fluffy blanket on a chilly winter morning. Writing was an art, and one that inspired. The problem with public writing is the same as the scientific/artistic notion that the act of observation changes the object being observed. When a writer knows that people they know will read what they write, it changes what they write. You become cautious and painfully self-aware. You write for specific readers in the PTA or that guy at work, or family members, but you lose your delicate relationship with the unknown reader, that wonderful person who might laugh out loud or be moved to tears by something you wrote–and you would never know it.
Now that bloggers become personalities in their own right, it becomes hard to separate the writing from the drive for “content” that demeaning phrase that relegates the art of writing to the bottom of cookie jar. I often fear I might be turning into TwitFace, more concerned with how many hits I gather than how many hearts I can touch. It’s too easy to get lost in posting incomplete thoughts, or hunting for new content to drive your Google rating or your Alexa rank–and then I remember that it’s still all about the writing. Even in content, writing has to be worth reading.
Everybody thinks they can write. But much of the discussion on the web is about writing “content” as means of driving traffic and selling merchandise. Even worse are the many, many places you can now read about the minutia in the daily lives of total strangers as if it’s part of serial novel. As Robin Williams once said (while channeling Truman Capote), “that’s not writing, that’s just typing.”
Writing used to be about conveying ideas, communicating, illuminating, educating, and yes, entertaining. And a writer had an identity because of what they wrote, they didn’t write to create an identity. They interwove character, theme, and story together to create something marvelous and engrossing that literally transcended time and space and shared the privacy of your mind with you. They didn’t write about whatever popped into their heads, unloading it onto bored masses for daily consumption. Writing was elegant and somewhat elusive. The whole idea was that it was something that wasn’t easy to do. And it was eternal. Once published, a written piece would survive generations to be read long after the writer was gone.
The immediacy of blog writing is that it can be read almost as you spit it onto the screen, unedited, unformed, and often uninformed. It may be relatively easy to get read today–at least once, but it’s anything but easy to write something interesting, something good, something lasting.
Maybe that will become the measure of our brave new world of writers—to be reread and passed on, not just because of a simple thought, but because of an elegant piece of writing, worthy of being read.
Excuse me now, while I post this to Twitter and Facebook.
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