Words used to be very important. Especially when they were put on a piece of paper. It seems hard for us to comprehend, but the number of people able to read and write was severely limited for centuries. Now it is very commonplace and the illiterate are on the outer. All for the best, you might say. But let us just stop and think about it for a while today.
When reading and writing were scarce, people took a lot of care with what they wrote. There was no rush to publish, so writers took a lot of time and care to craft their work for their audience, which was a small and well-educated section of society. The result of this was some of the best literature of all time. In fact, there would probably be a distinct correlation between the rise of literacy and the decline of standards in literatures. With the rise of the internet and the proliferation of published literature, the standard of authors has lowered dramatically. I know it is somewhat ironic that I am bemoaning this on a blog, one of the chief architects of this, but nonetheless I feel that it should be said.
The audience is less of a problem. Forms of literature have been tailored to public interest for millennia. Many of the famous Greek and Roman poets wrote their works for recital, rather than to be read. Media such as theatre and the spoken word managed to bridge the gap between author and public, allowing anyone access to high forms of literature. The works of Homer began as an oral tradition and their influence has spread throughout the Western world since. Shakespeare was amazingly popular amongst a population with very low literacy levels. Great authors have tailored their works to whomever they wanted, depending on their preference- whether they wanted to be accessible to everyone and widely appreciated, or accessible by few and appreciated for that very fact. The latter struck me when I read the poems of Andrew Marvell, a metaphysical poet. His poems were not meant for general consumption, on the contrary their content and crafting was of such a high level that only the most educated could properly appreciate them. Obviously this idea appealed to him as a writer: quality of fans over quantity I guess.
Nowadays, when money comes into the equation, it's all about quantity. People who want to make their lives as authors- in the past it was more of a hobby than anything else- need to make as much money as they can. This tends to compromise the quality of writing somewhat; authors like Stephen King churn out book after book, in very systematic styles. The recent success of Dan Brown has seen the rise and rise of the 'historical mystery' genre, copied and repeated by more and more authors ad nauseam. One feels that the faster the volume of writing increases, the faster we will exhaust the extent to which literature can go, to the detriment of us all. Of course when I say faster there, I mean more quickly. But that would not sound nice.
So in the end, if this piece is to have any sort of point or structure, I will return to the idea of why I am writing this. I am writing this for me, not for you. If there is a you! I am not seeking any specific target audience with this, in fact I do not expect anyone to read this! So even one is a bonus. It is merely a medium to get some thoughts off my brain and onto print. If you have read this, I hope you don't feel you have wasted your time. And just maybe you'll peruse the page again some day. Till next time, that's me for now!