I spent the holiday weekend researching and writing a paper on midwifery, and combined with the book reviews I’ve been working on, and the bits and bobs of commissioned work for The New Quarterly, I’ve (re-)discovered something: I love to write. Really, I love to write just about anything. But there’s a catch. I love to write to a deadline, to a commission, to a purpose, to an end. What’s hard, and beginning to feel near-impossible, almost stagnating, is writing purely for its own sake. I don’t mean these blogs, which feel purposeful in that they’re acting like journal entries and recording details about my family’s changing daily lives. I mean stories, poems. And I don’t mean that I write stories or poems that don’t need to be written–every story and poem I write comes from a place of genuine inspiration and need. The problem is that many of these don’t have a home, and after many years of working quietly and patiently upon material, what one wants is a home for it. Readers. A purpose. An end.
I’ve been reading Noah Richler’s cheery article in The Walrus on book publishing. His wife is the publisher of Anansi, a small and lovely Canadian publishing house, so he has a double view into the issues plagueing the industry. Which are not small. Do people even want to buy actual hold-in-the-hand, printed on paper books anymore? Who buys books? Did you know that Google has surreptitiously digitized whole libraries of books which will be/are available online? For free. And there’s the problem. Writing is work, like any other. Writing a book of fiction can take years. Who pays for those years of work? The idea is that one gets paid at the end, with the publication and plenty of sales; and, yes, this model works out for a few.
But for everyone else?
The publishers don’t know the answer to this either, big and small alike.
In researching for this paper, I discovered a big change: everything’s online. Journal articles are searchable and fully accessible with a university library account and a couple of clicks. Heck, entire books are available too. On the one hand, this is marvelous, saves a huge amount of wasted time and travel, allows one to scan a variety of sources looking for those most useful. On the other hand, reading text online is not fun, hard on the eyeballs and the back and the butt. I ended up printing out the most useful articles and headed to the library for the actual books. Is this because I’m old-fashioned? I also like to curl up in bed with a nice fat paper-printed book.
I’ve got too many ideas today, and too little time. It’s nearly lunchtime, my littlest would like to be held non-stop (runny nose, teething?), and I’m babysitting an extra, too.
Above, see pictured the food for our family Thanksgiving dinner, a snotty-nosed little tiger, and CJ’s latest favourite place to play (even better if a grownup is doing dishes).