It’s pretty rare for a month to go by where I don’t make some kind of comment about the way all of our collective problems seem rooted in excessive propagation of our species by less than ideal propagators. There is one thing that explosive population growth is good for, though. On any given day, there are more people on this planet than there were the day before. On any given day, more children become adults than ever before. (The first should give hope to the YA author; the second gives hope to those of us writing for our worldly readers.)
We may be using up more oil every day than ever before, and more water and even precious air; there are all kinds of things that we only have so much of that are threatened by there being so many of us. There is one thing that some of us can’t get enough of, though; and the more people that make more people, the better our odds of finding them. They’re the Blessed Reader, of course; and it’s nice to remember that they are one natural resource that is very far from being endangered or extinct. Every generation seems to worry that the next generation won’t read, and that literature will die as they take control of the world.
That is so not going to happen.
What’s everybody always complaining about and doing at the same time? That’s right: I can’t believe how many people have their faces in their phones! What’s that? Oh, I don’t know. Let me Google it on my phone. Those folks are reading, even if it’s bro science or sister math or their favorite comedian’s latest Tweet. Somebody is writing that stuff.
Besides, that’s not all they’re reading. Ebooks are the shiznizzdizzle, in case you haven’t heard. You can get it the moment you buy it, you can carry a virtual library in your phone or tablet or reader, and you can feel all good about yourself for only killing electronic trees. I love reading on the company Kindle, especially when we go on one of those cruises my Awesome Girl loves so much. There is no cruise long enough for me to read all those books, and I have them all on a little device that fits easily in my laptop bag. Of course, the company Appletop comes with me pretty much everywhere I go…that’s another reason to extend those cruises, as I shed the word count restrictions I generally put on myself to do some ‘serious writing’.
That’s writing while drinking, for those of you not familiar with the term. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, or looked into how many authors have considered the two inextricably intertwined. It’s a vacation thing for me, mostly; but I’ve never scrapped anything that has ever come of a good Appletop and Chivas evening.
Or morning, if I’m at sea.
I still love reading print books, and I am definitely not the only one. When I am a fan of an author or particular book, I want that name or title on my bookshelf. It helps me remember what a great book it was, and that I can pull it off the shelf and read it again any time. Whatever someone’s reasoning for liking to read a print book, it turns out that those reasons are not dying out with the next batch of young adults that have taken to reading. They may have different reasons, but they obviously still have their reasons. Young people are buying more print books than anyone else, from what I have heard.
It’s another example of one generation somehow both overestimating and underestimating the next generation at the same time. It might be funny if it weren’t such a consistent pattern. In this case, Today’s Writer can rejoice in knowing that the young folks are buying and reading those print books that the older folks are grumbling about them not buying or reading. For an author like me, the internet exposure that this generation has had growing up couldn’t make me happier: who is more worldly than someone who learned to log on to the internet while they could still count their age with a single digit?
I mean, have you seen the kind of stuff they put on there?
It’s really gearing kids up to explore all of the topics that previous generations tried to keep under their hats with an honesty and transparency that is as worrisome for some parents as it is refreshing to me. Kids need to know that there are other options out there, and that they don’t have to think or live like their parents do. It’s only the parents who don’t know how to parent properly that should fear the internet, and their kids are the ones most likely to benefit by having access. Also, they’ll be prepared to read books like mine long before previous generations ever would have been. So, hey…yay for the internet!
The other thing that the internet does is link everyone that is using it together. That’s awesome, especially when it works right. We can find other people that are into the same stuff we are with a quick search, no matter how oddball our stuff is. Artists can find potential fans more easily than ever, and not have to settle on a small fraction of what people are paying for their art. The middlemen that got fat off starving artists back in the day are as screwed as parents that want to raise their kids in the dark, and it’s all thanks to the internet.
It would have been nearly impossible for someone like me to get started as an author not long ago. I love my books, and part of why I love them is because I think they have something somewhat unique to say. That was death to an author trying to get started back in the day, as was writing in more than one genre. But I did the math a long time ago, and realized that I don’t need to try to sell my books to people that won’t enjoy reading them. With this gigantic population thing we’ve got going on, I don’t need everyone to love my books.
What are the odds that one percent of the population would have as wildly wonderful of a time reading my books as I do writing them? Maybe they’re slim; I am a pretty fringy guy. With three hundred fifty million Americans and counting, even a third of one percent is over a million people. If I’m going to keep claiming some kind of worldly mindset, we have to look at other English-speaking countries in the next breath. That’s puts one number way up, the number of people out there reading in my language. The other number gets to go down even more then, as a smaller percentage of that larger number needs to buy my books for me to write successfully full-time.
Well, of course that’s what this is all about. The difference is that with so many people art gets to be about passion more than sales. It gets to be about the artist connecting with the people who enjoy their art on a more personal and less mucked-up-by-middlemen level. With that connection more possible than ever, and those high-paid facilitators being faced with the fact that they can’t hijack art anymore, the artist has even less of a struggle and more time to focus on gathering their favorite people around them.
These aren’t fans, they’re people. They’re not numbers to be manipulated, they’re living and thinking beings that the artist has always longed to connect with. If someone listens to all of someone’s music, or collects copies of all of someone’s art, or reads all of someone’s books, they love peeking into that artist’s soul. That’s a connection that can’t be made over dinner or drinks, and it is two-way even if those two people never shake hands. The really cool thing is, there are more folks out there than ever. We don’t have to push our art onto the few of them that are into other art; we just need to find that group of people that genuinely enjoy what we do, and gather them lovingly about ourselves.
Then they become friends and family members, rather than fans or followers. They get to see that I’m human, I get to see that they’re human, and we get to connect over the fact that we both came across some pretty out there thinking on our own before we found each other. Now that we have found each other, we get to be friends. Like any good friend, we want each other to find more good friends. Before you know it, you might just realize that there are a million people out there rejoicing in what weirdos we all are. That’s the only way I can imagine a fringy introvert somehow amassing a million friends and not living in a state of constant anxiety. When I look at it the right way, it only makes sense that I would want a million friends.
I do honestly hope that you are one of them.
Thanks for reading!