Sometimes I think I’ll never write another word. What’s the point? I mean, really?
There are so many writers. There are so many voices striving to be heard – wonderful, resonant voices that deserve to be heard . . . that are being heard. There are writers with agents and publishers and sleek, shiny books in print. Since I live in Beaufort, SC, where writers grow on trees (typically live oaks and palmettoes), many of them are even people I know. Teresa Bruce… John Warley… Bernie Schein… Maggie Schein… Scott Graber… Cassandra King… and, of course, the great Pat Conroy. These people all live right here in my small Southern town. They’re my friends. And there are more where they came from.
And then there are all the other writers, the non-writer/writers, the millions of people expressing themselves daily – sometimes crudely, but often quite eloquently – all over social media, the blogosphere, and beyond. All those people who do something else for a living (unlike me), have other skills and talents (unlike me) . . . who didn’t grow up dreaming of being a writer (like me) . . . or who maybe did, but decided to make a decent living instead. Could they not leave me my little patch of turf? Must they invade my humble space – my only space! – and do it so dang well?
Hey, you, gorgeous fashion designer! Must you be a writer, too? And you, successful lawyer? And you, math professor? And even you, celebrated artist?
I console myself that I’m somehow different – more like a “real” writer – because I write essays and articles for a print publication. But, seriously… does anybody make such distinctions anymore? Though print still carries a cachet in certain circles, it’s increasingly difficult to say why. I think we once saw print as more “permanent,” but old issues of Lowcountry Weekly often end up shredded in somebody’s hamster cage, while the increasing lament is that nothing in cyberspace ever dies – even when you wish it would.
So, thanks to the Internet, everybody’s a writer. All you need is a keyboard, an idea, and a few basic vocabulary words. And while that’s certainly fabulous in its way . . . I think something’s been lost. And, no, this is not one of those umpteen articles about how the Internet killed journalism (though, in many ways, it has), or how self-publishing has thrown the publishing industry for a loop (though, in many ways, it has). No… I think I’m mourning something else here. What I’m mourning is a time when being a writer actually meant something . . . when writing was seen as both a gift and a profession… an art and a craft. A time before there were so many keyboards, so many ideas, so many writers all vying for attention, all at the same time. Sometimes, I actually find my eyes glazing over, right in the middle of a GOOD essay. It’s exhausting, all this good writing.
There are so many voices out there that deserve to be heard – beautiful, funny, wise, provocative voices – but the louder the cacophony, the harder they are to hear. And the harder it is to be heard.
So, for mostly selfish reasons, I suppose – but not entirely – I miss the days before everybody was a writer. Back then, I thought I had something to say.
These days, somebody has almost always said it already.