Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Growing Pains or Death Throes

Today, I'm writing about something that has been bothering me for quite a while.

Social media is going to be the downfall of civilization as we know it. Starting with writing.

When I first went to a writing conference, a hundred years ago, it was a small group of dedicated people willing to pay to garner advice from the professionals. We were thrilled to find others with the same interest, amazed at what we learned there, and energized by kindred spirits.

Ten years later, writing conferences are bigger than ever. So is the group of people that are writing books.

What once required dedication, sacrifice and practically blood is now readily available at any computer terminal. While I am not downing Indie authors, (since I am one, myself) it is ridiculously easy to publish any piece of work with little to no quality control. There is nothing to police whether it is original, plagiarized, true, accurate or even acceptably well written.

Writing is, by its very nature, a solitary pursuit. An author must have time alone and without distraction, to get those words on paper. But suddenly, thanks to social media, the job of writing now comes with extended staff - groups for research, cheering squads, critique groups comprised of people the writer may have never actually met and whose skills are unverifiable. Did the opponents of Gutenberg have the same concerns?

It is a double edged sword. One one side of it - I, myself, am involved in a writing collaboration made possible by the internet. On the other, that same site that makes this possible is the single biggest detraction from the writing I should be doing. On one side, an author doesn't have to rely on a publisher to put their work out there. On the other - electronic books make it easy to download, adjust and resell someone else's work with little to no effort. On one side, more people than ever are accomplishing their dream of publishing a novel. On the other, the craft is in danger of being cheapened by low quality, unedited, unprofessional quality dime novels flooding the book selling outlets.

So where do we draw the line between progress and keeping the best parts of the old ways?

Are these the growing pains of a rapidly expanding world, or the death throes of quality literature?