I have quite a number of friends who are writers. I admire their ability to think clearly as well as their humour and wit. Even when I disagree with a point of view, their cogent arguments will encourage me to consider what they say. They can be forthright and self assured to the point of arrogance yet are amongst the most accepting of others rights. However opinionated they may be, they know how to listen and counter in a manner that comes across as fair.
A number of these friends are professional journalists, which these days appears to be such a precarious career. With so many amateurs throwing their words into the public void, and fewer people being willing to pay for the news and comment that is freely available on the internet, earning a living from such writing can be tough. Quality has been forsaken for cheap and easily available quantity.
I follow a few of the blogs that are written by journalists. These tend to be well crafted and researched, full of interesting ideas but with less of a personal feel than is typical of much of the genre. As with any writing, it can be satisfying to agree with the points being made as this offers reassurance, but when feedback is given it can feel more academic; rather like losing or gaining marks in a school essay.
In contrast, blogs written by amateurs come across as more friendly. Shared feedback allows a reader to feel they are getting to know the writer as a person. Agreement offers a virtual hug, like being wrapped in a warm blanket. The quality of the writing varies widely but professional offerings can be just as diverse in construction.
Most bloggers, whether amateur or professional, wish to see their words being read and published beyond their personal sphere. Few would turn down payment, but it is being read that matters to a writer. In much the same way, authors of books will self publish when they cannot find a publisher willing to take them on. Whilst they may dream of being able to earn a living from book sales, having produced the work they seek readers.
In times gone by, books were written by gentlemen of independent means or who pursued other professions. When women entered the fray they used pseudonyms in order to be accepted. A level playing field, where anyone with a good idea may write a book, is all but impossible due to the effort required to produce a publishable work. Time and financial support are needed as well as skill and luck.
Those who truly wish to write will find the time to do so, but their words may not find an audience. The strength of the internet as a means to provide a platform for all opinions, not just the officially sanctioned ideas, also means that anyone can publish on this medium. So many good stories and ideas are lost in the swamp of resulting words.
The plethora of writing makes it difficult for both new writers to be noticed and for experienced writers to garner payment. As an avid reader and opinion seeker I believe that we will all be the poorer over time if the writers skills are never honed. A talented author can still benefit from having their work polished by an experienced editor. If it becomes impossible to earn from the endeavour then fewer will be able to afford the investment. Words will be published raw and quality will suffer.
It feels as though we are reverting to a time where story telling has become a hobby rather than a profession. The publishing houses stifle innovation in their desire to promote blockbusters above literature. Our news is propoganda provided by government and corporations rather than investigative propagation of key facts.
Independent thinkers are needed by any society that wishes to progress. As readers we need to seek them out and support them when we can. Buy books by an author you have not read before rather than the latest in a string of formulaic tales by a best seller; click on news items that inform rather than on shock tactic headlines or fluffy gossip about media darlings; support writers by sending a message to those who hold the purse strings that we want variety and quality rather than a rehash of what worked before.
Good writing offers the pleasure and satisfaction of a Michelin starred meal. Support the chef or we will all end up at McDonalds.