Sunday, May 24, 2009

Next to me stood a mother who had been assigned to help me get second line hankies painted with the kids as a school festival activity this past Saturday. At one point, both our sons and her daughter were gathered at the table, going to town with all the fabric paints, the puffy paint, and the fleur-de-lis stencils as another mother passed by, snapped our pictures, and wrote down our names for publication.

"I'm sorry if I keep asking your names," she said apologetically. "I have trouble keeping them all in my head."

"Well, that's what the notepad is for, right?" I said, grinning.

She laughed a little. "I used to be a reporter...but ever since I had my first child, it's like any capacity I had to remember people's names, what they said, locations off the top of my head...that capacity is gone. Even with the notepad, I have to ask a bunch of times just to make sure what I wrote down is correct."

The reporter mom walked away, and the mom helping me and I talked a bit more about how our brains got rewired by our hormones. Helper Mom told me she had a hard time sitting down and reading a book straight through. I said I had always done it to a small degree, but I find myself reading several books at a time more often: reading one until my mind wanders, putting it down when that happens, and picking up another. It's amazing I can still keep the stories straight.

"Of course, I could always attribute the shorter attention span to all my time on the Internet," I said, laughing.

In some ways, it comes as no surprise that I'm not the only one in that predicament. Seems many publishers out there have decided they are in the same boat, and they want online statistics to do their jobs for them. Less than 500 readers? Go to hell, writers!

The writers' inclination, understandably, is to tell the publishers to take long walks off their online platforms. Therefore, just as blogging is now apparently killing journalism, it is also getting in the way of the way a writer's life is supposedly conducted. Faster, Writers, Kill, Kill That Badass Internet for getting in the way of your dreams! Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!

Granted, I am not banging my head against many walls to try to get my work in print. This is a rough world out there, made even rougher by the insistence on the bottom line - and publishers of print media have not taken into account what it takes to be more flexible and to quit looking at their shops as printers of greenbacks. Most of them are learning much too late in the game that this is not the way to see newspapers and publishing houses - but instead of taking a long hard look at what they have done, it's so much easier to slough it all off on the internet, make the sign of the cross at it, and tell others that virtual hoodoo is taking their livelihood.

Writers aren't flocking to the internet much, either, though, because there is still a lot of crap out there when you troll the web. When everybody and his brother and sister can establish a website for free and start posting pictures of their cats and dogs living together while the kids jump off trampolines around their coexistence and tell everybody how much they love their favorite celebrity and sci-fi genre, well, it loses its gloss pretty quickly. Who the hell can write great literature for 500 per day of that lot? It takes serious publicity hounds and professional exhibitionists, right? That's it, I'm off the blogging thing! It's too much of a wild world of weblogs.

First off: everyone has to make the decisions that are right for them. If, as a writer, one feels the need to get off the internets, go. Barring a worldwide electromagnetic pulse, the web ain't going nowhere. If, as a publisher, you are feeling swamped by the hunt for the needle in the haystack that will be on the New York Times bestseller list for two years or so, narrow it down, by all means.

It's just...blaming the Internet is beginning to take on all the attributes of blaming God. I won't be surprised if, one day, the entire Internet as an entity in and of itself is brought to trial in a court of law. Whatever decisions are made, don't lay it at the virtual feet of the interwebs and tell it it's all its fault....not for too long, anyway. Recover, regroup. Get back into thinking about why you got where you did and how you want to continue. Get in touch with the world for a while. Yes, I'm spouting every cliche short of "don't give up" if it's what you really want, because the cliches still apply, regardless of how fast and furiously crazy things get.

There is still a need for great works of writing out there, and for folks to put in the time to bring us those stories, to fire our imaginations, to get our brains in motion that is more contemplative. Otherwise, most of the bookstores would be long gone, as would all the great works of literature of the past and of right now.

Don't go gently into the cathode-ray tubeless night, any of you, is all I'm saying.

Unless it really is your hormones. In that case - speaking as a rewired mother - may God and any healing methods you choose help you.

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