As a Person
April 24, 2013 § 25 Comments
I must confess that I’m not a big blog reader, but one I check with some frequency (although not nearly enough frequency to keep up with his rapid-fire posts – how the heck does he manage that?) is Jon Katz’s. I’ve never read a single one of Jon’s books, but I sure do appreciate his online work. His writes with tremendous eloquence about issues that resonate with me, and I admire his honesty.
One of the subjects Jon tackles regularly is the practice of writing (another reason I like his blog). A couple weeks back, he wrote this post, about the evolution of his career and the business of writing in general. His intent for the piece, I think, is to point out – rightly, I believe – that the business is changing, not dying. That writing will continue and so too will writing as a career. It just won’t look exactly like it has in years and decades past.
Jon had me feeling pretty darn good about my future as a writer right up until he got to the fifth paragraph, which is where he reveals rather crushing details regarding his online reach. 30,000 blog hits a day!?! 10,000 + followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on!?! Crikey. If I get 500 hits a day on this humble little site, a couple hundred of which are probably my mother, I think I’m doing pretty good. I’m absent from Facebook, and although I tried Twitter for about a month, I found it abhorrent.
Jon’s post got me thinking again about Penny’s views regarding online connectivity, and to what extent I should embrace these mediums. If it’s not abundantly clear by now, I am somewhat conflicted in this regard. I have gently, almost reluctantly, embraced this space, and I have come to understand that it has great value to me. Not because it’s selling me a bunch of books, or somehow securing my spot in the uncertain future of authorship, but because it has come to serve as something of a vetting process for ideas that may (or more likely may not) deserve further development. And because it has introduced a degree of discipline to my work that has long been lacking. But then friggin’ Katz comes along, talking about his 30k daily hits and his Facebook “likes” or whatever you call them, and how even he can’t say for sure if he will survive as a writer, and I think… well, I think “shit.”
I try to not dwell on either the past or the future. The former is known and unchangeable; the latter is unknown and unknowable. But just because it is unknown does not mean it cannot be influenced, and I do wonder to what extent I should be working to influence my future success as a writer. Or, if not success, than at least survival. Should I be on Facebook, liking and friending and so on? Should I go back to Twitter, and try to make sense of all the stilted conversations happening there? Should I be posting on this site every day, even if I really have nothing to say? And even if I did all of these things, would it make a difference?
The truth is, much as Jon seems fairly confident that he will find his way as a writer and human being, I feel the same, and I suspect my path will and should be as unique to me, as his is to him. And while I consider it one of my great privileges that I am able to support my family with my writing, I consider it an even greater privilege that I do not feel as if I am defined by this career choice. I like it. At times, I might love it. But as I have mentioned before, it is not the primary source point of my contentment. It is not impossible for me to imagine something different, although I suspect that the older I get, the more challenging such a transition might be.
In recent years, I have become keenly aware of serendipity’s role in my life, and I have become more comfortable placing a certain amount of trust in this role. I’m becoming aware of something else, too: That serendipity only works when you are honest with yourself and others. I think that’s why Jon’s path works so well for him. It is rooted in his particular truth. It is a truth that happens to include 10k blog hits a day, a NY Times bestseller or two, and an embrace of social media platforms that make me a little uncomfortable.
So, yeah, I’ll admit that Jon’s post made me feel a little uneasy. Can I really survive as a writer the way I’m doing it? But the more I think about it, the more I realize that perhaps I don’t need to survive as a writer. I just need to survive as a person.