We are bombarded by images and sound bites almost 24/7 due in part to around-the-clock news channels and social media sites that feature photos with a brief message providing links to the words. Even a still photo will be considered passe in part due to the rise of live video on Facebook. Emoticons and GIFs are replacing written phrases.
I love a good photograph or a funny video as much as the next person, but I’m a writer and I wonder if future generations will miss the joy that I’ve found in reading a book. There is something very special about reading a book passage which paints a mental image in our brains transporting us to another realm created through the author’s vision molded into the reader’s interpretation of their literary musings.
The warm red glow of the rising sun peeked through gaps in the advancing front of the storm. Its weakened light glinted off of the corrugated metal carports. The roar of the tide rushing into the beach and an occasional car door or trunk closing were the only sounds. — Exodus, Chapter One
I had a specific memory in mind when I wrote this paragraph in my first novel. A writer uses words like an artist uses a paintbrush. Our combination of adjectives, verbs, and nouns are the paints we stroke onto our canvas. We use long sweeping sentences mixed with crisp ones to add drama and layers similarly to the technique a painter will use when they change the type of bristle on their brush or the direction and quality of their application of paint. Splashing a bit of color here and there to bring out dimensions in their work is not unlike building tension in a scene.
Will future generations be unable to frame a mental picture of what they are reading? Will our writing become a washed out photograph relegated to the past because a bright video set to music strengthens certain nerve centers in the brain while other neurons, which once dealt with the impulses of reading a descriptive passage, whither away?
I thought it was funny when people would visit my home, look into my home library and comment, “Have you read ALL of these books?” When I told them that I read the majority of them, they would look at me like I was a freak of nature. Or when I hear a negative comment about a person being “strange” because they don’t watch TV and “all they do is read!” I begin to worry about the direction our society is going.
I was curious to see if this was a problem or only a theory produced by my book-obsessed psyche. I found out a Pew Research Center study showed approximately 72 % of American adults had read a book in 2015. This was a continuation of a gradual decline over five years. In 2011, about 79% had read a “book in part”. Women read more than men on average and younger people (80 %) read at least one book in a year compared to senior citizens with only 69% reading a book/year. Americans as a whole read fewer hours per week by half when compared to readers from other nations around the world. These statistics are sobering.
Or, am I worrying much in the same way the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” predicted in 1979? It didn’t.
In the early 20th century, the Italian avant-garde art movement — Futurism — looked to destroy older forms of culture, preferring to explore new technologies and media as the means to communicate their creative vision. Futurism added an additional layer to the cultural whole, instead.
We, as writers, can fight back by presenting the best quality work we can. The continued honing of our craft and improvement in our writing skills is a must. I’m not an elitist writer, and I cringe when I read comments by writers about all of the crap being written today. My belief in encouraging all forms of writing by many writers will be our saving grace.
We crawl before we can walk or run. Our writing develops and improves as we write. If we turn our noses up because “we” know good writing and denounce the offerings of another, we will discourage the exploration and evolution of the art we wish to embrace.
So, I have joined the ranks of authors utilizing the social media I worry will destroy the older exchange of ideas in books. If it goes the way of music videos and new art movements, it will add something to our creative palate and may bring more readers and writers into the fold. Inclusion is the remedy to keeping an art form thriving in an ever-changing world.
OMP Admin Note: Kate McGinn is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues. Kate hopes to spread awareness of the issue of American Veterans returning home to less help than they deserve. EMMAUS is one of the two main charities we are supporting.
Kate McGinn’s fiction can be found on Amazon in the flash fiction series BITE SIZE STORIES (Volume Two) along with five other guest writers. The first two books in her Clare Thibodeaux Series–EXODUS and WINTER’S ICY CARESS are available on Amazon.