The Value of a Thing
By Joseph Nichols, Graduate Assistant, Bluegrass Writers Studio
It is easy to forget the value of our writing, especially in the culture of North America. Here, commercial fiction holds the corner on a book market that is, arguably, slipping at an alarming rate. People are not reading as much, we are told; some studies show the percentage of readers in America, outside of university studies, as negligible at best. With the advent of eBooks, the boom of the internet, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and the popularization of self-publishing, in America – it would seem – everyone can, and does, have a voice. It is a beautiful thing that we have that voice in our country. But when everyone has a voice very few end up being heard. Imagine sitting at a dinner party with dining room for 8 – now add an additional hundred guests, each talking incessantly, each too focused on the movement of their mouth, the quivering of their vocal chords, to possess enough blood flow to power their ears.
This is the American media – what endures of American literature.
It is easy to see why we, as writers, especially with the self-esteem issues that we oftentimes harbor, would get discouraged. Can anybody hear us?
Contrast these decades of din-development with what has always, and still does, occur in many of the other countries of the world. Authors, poets, and philosophers are excommunicated, tried for treason, even martyred for ink on a page, for a hint of an expression of freedom.
Words have power.
Words are ideas, pressed in cement, impregnating minds and hearts alike (though more often the latter before the former). We could argue that we write only fiction, or poetry, or anecdotal stories from our own lives, but many of the pieces of literature we first learned in schools were but pieces of fiction, of poetry, of such anecdotal stories – when first the ink dried. Even so, in the hearts and the minds of nations, they grew to become more. Robinson Crusoe. 1984. Catcher in the Rye. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Scarlet Letter. Beloved. Paradise Lost. All fiction. All books that were banned, at one time or another, because they held power. And someone feared that power.
“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.”
- William Carlos Williams
It is time to get over the national situation in which we were born, as writers. Either we write or we do not. Either we give solidity to what is otherwise an idea, in our head, giving it voice, giving it power, or we stow our pens and our laptops and find another career.
Which will it be, friends?
What do we value? What should we value? What value are you, right now, keeping hidden from a world – one that is dying miserably for lack of what might be found, there, in your writing?
Published on April 16, 2014