THE WRITER’S DILEMMA

by Kenneth Harper Finton ©2015

a2351c22-19ff-40c4-8852-cbf36ff8bda3 It is said that writers “write to be read.” Then painters paint to be seen, actors act to impress and singers sing to be heard. If this is the case–and most often it is–the newer writers of the world are setting themselves up for great disappointment. They will not find the audience that they did on the past. They will not achieve the fame that others did in the past. They will quite likely not enjoy the riches that others have had In the past. Technology and world Internet communications have obviously changed the world.

Though it has democratized the ability to be read and seen and heard, by doing so it has practically eliminated the institutions that originally supported and brought culture to the world. Some vestiges of the old system remain, but they are losing ground with each passing year. They have been replaced by myriads of smaller, more democratized platforms that do not pay, do not develop and do not guide.

Moguls still control what is printed and sold in local stores. They chose the music that is allowed to be bought at box stores, the movies that are shown and the art that is displayed in museums and fine art shows. The competition for such space is fierce. The rewards to the artists have been drastically reduced from that it was just thirty years ago. This leaves the would-be writer with a great dilemma. They feel that they have talent and should pursue an audience and readership, but the audience is slimmer and the finger of fate even more fickle than ever.

Only by applying a talent is the talent polished and sharpened. “Practice,” it is said, “makes perfect.”

Perfection, though, is a subjective judgment that should be left out of that axiom. Practice makes us more exceptional. It is a fact, though, that natural talents of all kinds need to be performed and utilized to get beyond the level of the commonplace. Writers now write blogs to keep their talents active and polished, but the readers of blogs are also a fickle lot. The individual blog does not really reach a substantial audience. Blogs and personal journals are worthy tools for a writer, as they can refer to them in the future, draw on them for ideas, and reference them for later promotion.

There are few, if any, works that cannot be made better by multiple rewrites. So coming back to what you did before is quite valuable for the future. Professional writing has not totally become extinct, but it is nearing that vanishing point. Professional writers are not free to write as their muse moves them, but are pressured to write what their superiors believe their readership wants to read. Even with access to statistics that determine what people are choosing to read, the writer is often no longer free to follow their muse and write from the heart if they want to increase their following.

Yet, writing from the heart and being true to your own voice is the only possible way to beat the odds. Only that will make you stand out in a crowd. Even if you write from the heart, your heart and voice must be very special, very unique and quite original. Your perceived persona must be likable, strong and quite different from the masses. The vast majority of us will never be that person. Chloe Thurlow recently spoke of  “the time before smart phones made the whole world a banal image and the photographer like the editor became a dinosaur.” https://www.facebook.com/chloe.thurlow.5?fref=ts

We have a changing dictum. As writers, we must write for ourselves to be original. We will probably never make any financial profit from these efforts. Few in history ever have. We may not even achieve any large readership no matter how hard we try. Everyone has an opinion to share, a broken heart to express, a love that they feel they must share with the world about. All lives are novels in the making. The only thing we can do is persist or quit.

Of course, if we quit, we never will have an audience. If we want an audience or a readership, our only alternative is to persist. To persist means to continue through depression and despair. It means we need to develop tools to combat and dispel our negative feelings. To persist means to struggle with the reality that we spend too much time doing things that we do not love in order to do what we do love. It is easier to be a baker or a cook or a carpenter. All such work is creative, but the requirement of pleasing more than a few is not essential in many occupations.

Artists always had to pay their dues. The fees are even higher these days. Inflation, you know.

SUPPORTING WRITERS AND THEIR WORK

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ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

This month we lost another outlet for writers of short fiction and poetry. Pithy Pages has closed their doors. Writers, of course, need readers but unless readers support the writers by buying their works, contributing to their continued efforts, and commenting on their blog pages, then the accomplished writers will be driven to other ways of communication of will give up their efforts entirely. The publishers at Pithy Pages have gracefully allowed me to reprint their final comments on their short-lived project.

 

From the Publishers of Pithy Pages For Erudite Readers

 

This is our last issue  and quite frankly we think it is unfortunate. We have had a wonderful time reading the many, many stories submitted by a wide range of authors. One of the most difficult things any publisher must do is select a few stories for publication from the many received. The authors we have published have proven to be as gracious as they are talented, making our relationships with them both pleasurable and satisfying.

The fact that we have enjoyed our foray into the publishing world begs the question: Why are we ending our publication? The quick and easy answer is that our publishers and editors are talented writers and avid readers, but lousy business people. The longer answer is a bit more complicated.

In their role as authors, our staff members are constantly writing and submitting their works to a variety of venues for publication. When a publisher accepts their work, they would like to be paid a decent rate.

Unfortunately there are fewer and fewer publishers who will (or can) pay a good rate, making competition among authors fierce for the few spots available. Why is that so?

Publishers too, would like to be paid for their time and effort. To do this each publisher must decide to work as a profit or non-profit company. Pithy Pages chose the former because our publishers believe that the literary public, rather than government or some wealthy foundation, should support the publication of the short fiction they read or write. That being said, there are two ways to generate revenue from a publication: subscription fees and/or advertising. We tried both with dismal results. It turns out that there is more interest in writing short fiction than in reading it. It seems that the only people left to support the publication of short fiction are the authors working in the genre. Unfortunately, short fiction authors are under the incorrect assumption that people are lining up to read their work … They should be (it is really, really good) but they’re not, preferring the latest full-length novel (now showing as a movie).

Without direct and active intervention of the writers of short fiction the genre will continue to be a quaint, underpaid, and unappreciated art form. We, therefore, offer the following solution. Every author and aspiring author of short fiction should set aside ten dollars a week to support the publications of short fiction. When this is done, publishers will be able to sell enough subscriptions to stay in business and to continue to offer a decent payday for those authors selected. When those same authors encourage their friends and family to subscribe or advertise in short fiction publications, pay to authors will increase … as will the number of publications. Eventually, short fiction will rebound as a genre to everyone’s benefit.

One good thing has come out of our experience with publishing. Our staff has vowed to subscribe to the magazines they submit items to. … not because they think they will necessarily be published, but because they understand that the health of the short fiction publication market must be maintained or our genre will go the way of the dodo bird. We hope that you will consider taking the same pledge. Together we can keep short fiction alive and viable as a reading and writing choice.

The Publishers and Editors of Pithy Pages For Erudite Readers