The internet has only been around for about ten years. I didn’t grow up with a cell phone or a laptop. I still wrote my essay assignments in high school by hand. I still have a writer’s bump on my right middle finger to prove that I wrote some long essays. I read books, old books, new books, used books, trashy books, great books. I listened to records and spent time looking at album covers. Sometimes I went to the library. Being into artistic type things, dreaming of being a writer, I was warned that I wasn’t likely to make much of a living like that. The same was true for teens like me, definitely not jocks, or physicists either, all across the country.
Recently I was talking with some Pacifica Radio colleagues of mine from the nineties, about radio programming today. One told me that “nobody reads books anymore.” Another one said that “they don’t give more than ten minutes of airtime to authors.” Apparently no one buys albums anymore either. They just download singles. They need information; they enter keywords.
I’m not saying what is bad or what is good. But what should a writer do? Write books? Movie scripts? Video game scripts with multiple endings? Morph into a multi-media performance artist? Personally, I prefer not to allow the market to dictate what I create. It’s helpful to remember, actually, to continually remind ourselves, like a mantra, what our motives are for our creations. In the case of writing, one thing is certain. A story is at the heart of the matter. Whether you are telling a story to a group of children, or selling your brand of soap on TV, there is a struggle and an outcome.
There was a time when nobody read at all. And for a long time, only a few people read, and they held the printed word up as if it was sacred, as if it was THE TRUTH. The truth is that stories are older than books. Pictures are older than alphabets. It’s not true though, that nobody reads books anymore, or newspapers. It may seem hard to believe, but one day someone is going to say ‘nobody watches TV anymore.’ But what all this really means is that the story is being told with different tools.
I’m halfway through a new book by Ana Castillo, “The Guardians” an example of storytelling at its best. I search for stuff on the internet all the time. I put on old records, and I download mp3’s too, and podcast and chat and twitter. What concerns me in this changing landscape is the status and well being of the creative artist.
During the whole time that the Olympics were happening in Beijing I kept thinking that what the world needs is an international arts event of the same stature as the Olympics is for sports. When Dizzy Gillespie visited Cuba he gave a concert with a band of musicians who were Americans and Cubans. He commented to a huge crowd of fans that they were demonstrating to their political leaders how it can be done. The way I see it, no matter what the political controversy is that surrounds the Olympics, the fact that all these athletes come together and display their skills and sportsmanship at the heights of human achievement is awe inspiring. Just imagine, if there was an arts event of the same magnitude, how it would improve the stature and the funding of the arts all over the world. How little kids would pick up instruments, recite poetry, rehearse in state-of-the-art theaters…
That really would be a change, wouldn’t it?
Wishing you Peace and Poetry
Martha Cinader Mims