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June 17, 2014: The Writing Life

I’ve read a great deal about how difficult it is to make a living as a writer, and how it’s getting even more difficult. For example, it’s been said that publishing houses are closing right and left. And those that are remaining solvent are offering smaller advances and royalties to their writers. This (I think) is because we’re moving from a print based to a visual based society. Evidence of this is appearing right and left.

I recently watched the 2014 Belmont Stakes on television. I hadn’t seen any TV in many years, just gotten a glimpse here and there, in restaurants. I wanted to watch this particular horse race because there was the likelihood that this year, there might be a triple crown winner.

I had (on television) seen Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed successfully complete this seemingly impossible feat. These were the only winners in my lifetime – and I didn’t want to miss yet another. I didn’t think that California Chrome, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness was that great a horse, but the field he was running against was equally lackluster. So I committed to watching this race at our friends the Stoffels.

Before the race, there was a great deal of hype – expected, and a lot of useless non-information. There were no lengthy features about any of the horses, owners, trainers, or jockeys. I must admit, though, that the partial footage of Secretariat winning the 1973 Belmont was, as it always is, riveting. There were also no extended commentaries on the horses in the race.

As for the advertisements. What struck me as odd was that they were rapid fire visual sequences with minimal commentary. There were numerous 15 second series of ads, one piled right on top of the other. There weren’t even any mindless song jingles.

This got me to wondering what the long-term effect of repeated inane commentary and visuals has on a reader’s mind. It seems to me that the ability to focus on a print related item (be it narrative or expositional) would be greatly diminished. And perhaps younger people are being affected to a greater degree than older people.

So where does this leave print based communicators, like me? I honestly have to say that at this point in time that I have no idea whatsoever.

It appears that my one ace in the hole, the proposal for my book, tentatively entitled “Writing Sustainably” is on hold. I’ve ceased to hear from James Engelhardt at the University of Alaska Press. I ought not have put all my eggs in one basket, but I only have two hens. So regaining momentum and getting going on this or another project is extremely difficult. I’m also not a multi-tasker. This is even more difficult given that I am fully aware of the realities of the publication market.

As it turned out, California Chrome didn’t win the Belmont Stakes. He lost to Tonality, but he did do respectably, coming in fourth. The video clips indicate that another horse, a long shot, bumped into him at the starting gate, and he clipped his heels. But after, his owner went on a tear about how fresh horses ought not to be allowed in the Belmont; rather just those who have competed in the Derby and Preakness should be allowed to compete in the third Triple Crown event.

This to me was sour grapes. My analogy is related to the sorry state of horse racing/publishing. It didn’t do Steve Colburn any good to whine and moan and pout and cast aspersions on the owner of Totality. And it won’t do me any good to whine and moan and pout and cast aspersions on others. The situation is what it is. Like Colburn, I must accept, adapt, and move on with a smile on my face.

Next: 167. 6/18/14: Hay Days