Dad says that life is about closing doors, when he becomes philosophical. It is a workable parable, I suppose. Some doors close because you consciously close them; other doors close because they’re shut in your face. I stand staring at a door, and wonder if I’ll shut it myself, or if it’s being shut without my control.
The truth is that writing for a living becomes more and more impossible as each day passes. Like many artistic fields, it’s being consumed by the culture of ‘free’. As the world moves over from consuming paper books to ebooks, the pay for artists in that field is plummeting. In ten years time, writers of fiction will make as little as musicians do when selling copies of their works.
The difference between a fiction writer and a musician is that a musician can compensate for the loss of selling songs by performing music live in pubs and venues. A writer can’t possibly engender any interest, except from other writers, about grammar or dramatisation or fiction techniques. Like the photographer in this Ars Technica article, the fiction writer can only make a living by devolving writing into a hobby that’s done on the side, and make sales and marketing and such the main profession.
I think I was born at the wrong time to do that which I want desperately to do, and what I have to decide is whether to kill my dream, or fling my life into uncertainty despite the miniscule chance of success. Since I am no Dostoyevsky or Salinger or even JK Rowling, yet, I look forward to ten or twenty or thirty years of honing this craft for the off-chance that I can make a go of it in a future I know nothing about.
The internet met the art, and the art became a commodity where only that which didn’t cost any time or preparation became the viable. I am raging against that thought a bit, and i don’t want it to be true, and I desperately want to see some kind of hope here. But I don’t. I think the near and medium term future for anything artistic is to become a Justin Bieber instead of a Lou Reed.
While I like my course, and won’t change my education, the future beyond my degree seems opaque – as I wrote yesterday. Some of you speak of taking a break, but that’s not the problem. I am, educationally, where I should be. It’s the next step that I’m not sure about. The next step, once I have my degree, is that I may have to decide that writing, which I feel I was born to do, is something I can not do. Circumstance may not allow me to. Flailing against these circumstances could be irresponsible and futile. That thought is breaking my heart, to be honest.