Thoughts on Writing in 2022
The world of writing has changed.
As an observation, that might sound banal and even warrant a “well duh” under the breath.
But I want to talk about how the world of writing has changed from the perspective of someone who began her writing career in the early 2000s, when the Internet was still much like the American West of the 19th century—full of wonder, promise, hope, and yes, a little bit of “wild” that lent itself to possibilities rather than danger—at least for someone like me.
We got a PC from my then-husband’s employer, and I remember the first time I emailed someone socially, outside of work.
I thought “LOL” meant “lots of love,” so I stuck it in at odd times.
“It was good to see you yesterday lol,” which was probably more confusing at that time than it would be now, since the pervasive use of L-O-L has literally become a modern communication model unto itself. I’m sure doctoral dissertations have been, or are being written, about L-O-L.
But looking back on it, I’m sure she wondered what in the world was so laugh-out-loud funny about me seeing her the day before.
I remember writing on Yahoo Answers, giving advice that gave me my very first taste of writing-related public approval via a high-ranking in the categories I played around in.
However, there are still purists out there who like to bluster on about college degrees and credentials and so forth, but sometimes common sense is simply that, and reading something you already know on some level from a stranger helps you get to your own realization faster than going into therapy to deconstruct your childhood.
From where I sit, your life or relationships or parenting skills need not be perfect or accredited to have an objective insight into someone else’s cry for help. So, while my advice was technically “unqualified,” unlike Quora, it didn’t ask me to puff up my CV so my answers were seen and taken as ‘credible.’
My words spoke for themselves. Back then part of my writing’s appeal was that I didn’t write to appease my small audience. I wrote to challenge them.
That said, faster than I could write, the quickly changing socio-cultural landscape moves at light speed, and for writers, artists, or any public figure, for that matter, this has proven to be not only problematic, but a cheap and lazy tool for people seeking to detract or muddy someone’s credibility.
Today, thanks to the Internet, an individual’s inner narrative-landscape is heartier and more immovable than ever before. If you want or need your worldview to be a certain way, if you need other people to participate in your delusion, technology guarantees you your proof, and it takes a lot less mental contortionism than dealing with real, live people who won’t behave according to script 24/7.
It reminds me of a time when reporters swarmed Robert Downey Jr. after he was released from prison, accosting him with words he’d said decades ago, ineffectively trying to trip him up, show that who he was then could be sustained and calculated based on who he was long before then.
The written word carries weight. Unfortunately, they all carry about the same amount of weight now, so a written lie or spoken mischaracterizations no longer need to find an audience.
The audience is built-in, actively, purposefully, seeking those words out.
The entirety of the Internet can be characterized, in my opinion, as the most effective confirmation bias tool ever created by man next to religion.
Only the Internet is even more potent than religion because it can be used as a tool to confirm the veracity or total bullshittery of a religion, but religion has yet to wind down the efficacy of the Internet’s influence.
The term “Nothing is written in stone” has been obliterated by the Internet because now it is, except it’s written in the ether, for eternity, on the “Way back Machine,” or screen captures from your number one fans.
That said, I look back at the many blogposts I wrote with the erroneous belief that no one read my blog anyway, or only friends read it, or only the friendly types of eyes (and other delusions) were reading it, and it makes me cringe on too many levels to count.
With everything written in ether-stone, if I wrote a post in 2007 that definitively clashes with a post I wrote a year ago, it’s altogether too easy for someone, somewhere, with nothing better to do, to grab hold of that and say, “AH HAH.”
Ah-hah I changed my mind about a political or social issue? Ah-hah I had a strong opinion that’s wildly unpopular and scandalous today? Ah-hah as definitive proof of whatever mischaracterization is on the agenda?
There are few people in the world who don’t change. Being unchangeable, in fact, is a lot harder now than it used to be, and it would take a concerted, conscious effort to remain unchanged by the world and by life and the many experiences it affords you.
The ah-hahs aren’t because I matured and grew as a human being and, sometimes the hard way, learned I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. The ah-hahs don’t show I practiced, and continue to practice, the skill and craft of writing on a daily basis, and while I might still make grammatical errors here and there, I’ve gotten better with that dedication, but if a mistake is found?
The ah-hahs have their proof. One thing about me hasn’t changed. I still don’t write to appease an audience, I write to challenge, but that’s not as difficult as it used to be, is it?
Writing something deeper than this blog post, longer than that first page warrants a cursory glance by people with nothing better to do than get offended. My last blog post had some guy on social media with 84 friends and a shit-ton of military memes instead of photos (don’t people realize we see them clearer when they don’t put their faces on their profiles?) saying, basically, “How dare you.”
How dare I what?
How dare I write something too long, too complex, too nuanced for someone like him to read. How dare I.
Not to get too sentimental, because I think it’s my own naiveté that missed the dark side of it, but the Internet seemed to be a friendlier place back in the early 2000s. A better place to write for a writer. A better place to be read by other writers who didn’t understand what “TLDR” means because writing was about connection, not unpacking your emotional garbage bags. It was about finding and connecting with friends we hadn’t met yet, didn’t even know their real names, but we loved them after reading their deep words, their beauty within every soul-searching paragraph.
Quality long-form writing like blogs and articles, the type of writing most people don’t bother with anymore, are almost unfindable, and whenever I do bother with online articles, I find they’re written slapdash and simplistically, unprofessional and riddled with errors.
But because it’s on the Internet, and the article’s publication looks legit and credible, we’re fooled into believing we’re about to read something worthwhile and thought-provoking.
But let’s face it. ‘Thought-provoking’ isn’t what the Internet, or its writing platforms, is about anymore.
Feelings and experiences trump fact, circumspection, and metacognition. “If I feel it, it’s true.”
Fast forward from the rather halcyon and idealized memories I have of the early-2000s, today the Internet looks like downtown Tokyo in the 1980s—a soul-deadening and ubiquitous flash of cheap entertainment, trauma porn, and consumption, reminding us that there has always been mud, shit, blood, and the ugliness of human progress just below the surface of lights.
It’s our jobs as writers to find audiences in other ways, now—while also cultivating a writing community that’s interested in bettering the literary landscape rather than reducing it to small-minded, petty bullshit, parading and masquerading as art. Maybe as human beings we’ll never be better than that.
Writing with conviction and boldness is no longer valued for the skill it takes to write with boldness and conviction. Instead, the writing (and writer) becomes an opportunity to amass a stone-throwing collection, whether directly at the writer or someone else.
Words are often used as weapons, that’s not new. What’s new is those who wield them as often as they do calling themselves writers don’t have a command of their arsenals and the damage they cause, or they absolutely know and just don’t care.
But when things go wrong in the real world, or in the world online, we should be striving for something better.
As always, je te vois, and peace out –