I have not the slightest desire to be paid for anything I write, but I do know many who see writing as a path to fame and fortune (and more who would just appreciate a crumb now and then for all the work they put into their writing). It is almost a senior affliction. Some are talented writers, who I feel most sorry for. Most are mediocre, like the rest of us, but it doesn’t matter. Neither gets published. The world is not clamoring for more books or magazines. Community libraries are frantically reinventing themselves as digital resource centers and children’s playrooms—anything to bring people through the doors, which is no longer books and magazines. Most magazines have become no more than collections of advertisements bound in glitzy, teaser covers designed to attract bored airline travelers.
Even my favorite magazine, The New Yorker, may soon be gone. It is owned by the giant publisher Condé Nast, a company that owns 15 other popular magazines. But they are now looking into cutting costs, and advertising at The New Yorker is down from last year. The head of the company was a long-time supporter of magazine publishing and he is gradually transferring responsibilities to his nephew who favors digital media. Not good signs.
All art depends on looking effortless. If any of the blood . . . or sweat . . . or tears . . . show, even slightly at the corners, the art evaporates. Fred Astaire dances effortlessly, but his meticulous planning and long rehearsals were well-known. Judy Garland sits at her desk and starts singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” as if she is making it up as she goes along.
Writing is no different. It has to sound as if the author is spontaneously speaking to us. But many people believe the illusion and actually think they could do the same if they only took the time. But they would soon find no one will publish it. No one is willing to put up their own money on the vague hope that many other people will later put up their money to read it.
So . . . a recent article caught my eye in the Wall Street Journal about successful authors emerging from video bloggers on YouTube (see the posting here of 6/5/2011, The Pioneer Woman, who began with a standard blog). One bookstore owner said he sells 6 to 12 copies of a best-seller in a month but often sells hundreds authored by a popular YouTube blogger, regardless of its merits.
These must be great video blogs, so I checked on two that were cited in the article: PointlessBlog and ItsGrace.
They are awful! Go on YouTube and see for yourself.
I don’t blame the people who do them. They have found a niche that keeps them off the welfare roles. They would quickly say their videos are not expected to appeal to old f**ts like me anyway (they cuss a lot), but I was expecting more, lots more.
These video bloggers are young and appeal to hoards of similar young people who watch them over and over, and that is what is so depressing. Young people today live on such intellectual pop-tarts while avoiding the effort of reading subtle concepts that require frequent pauses to ponder and absorb. Without this intellectual exercise that we grew up with, how will they make good life decisions? Will they drift aimlessly from one hopeless situation to another without ever knowing why? I think that is already obvious.
Stereotyping? Who, me? Pshaw, you young whippersnappers!