Posts filed under 'Observation & Musing'

The Great Reset for Authors

All the talk recently of The Great Reset got me thinking about what it all means for publishing. I’m undecided on whether this supposed reset will happen, or perhaps take a different form than what many people currently envisage. The prospect of it happening at all merits consideration of the potentially tumultuous consequences for all of human society.

The prospect of the mooted universal basic income intrigues me. We’ve seen the seeds of it in the pandemic furlough schemes**. Many writers already find it hard to make a living from their art, and have to augment with some other income anyway. So is UBI a potential boon for authors? For all “creatives”, for that matter.

People who can survive on a basic income from the State will need things to do with their time. The prospect of a large number of people at a loose end, without any obligation for participative contribution to society, is one that should worry us. But those who are perhaps naturally drawn to creative arts will see UBI as a means to an end, as a means to allow them to do the thing they most want and love to do – to create art for the greater good.

This may be no bad thing. Great writers who may not have otherwise come to light may emerge only because of UBI support, but a word of warning to any aspiring author in such a scenario – it will also mean lots of additional competition (for want of a better word) for the attention of publishing houses. Many more bored scribblers on UBI flooding the slush piles with their manuscripts might not be a thought that excites many in the publishing business at the moment! Those who can’t get publishing contracts will go the self publishing route (as if the amazon book lists aren’t already chock-full of indie publications diluting the attention of would-be readers too.)

On the bright side though, more people with more time on their hands means more people likely to pick up a book to read. So perhaps we can look forward to a reset in reading habits too, just as we saw during these pandemic lockdowns. More readers is good news for any publisher and ultimately for any author that can scramble to the top of the increasing slushpile.

** How these schemes will be paid for – or indeed whether they should be paid – in the longer term is a whole other discussion, but that’s a different post.

Add comment February 2nd, 2021

On Writers’ Retreats

I’ve squirreled myself away to a writer’s retreat for a few days. I’ve been to a couple of them in my time. Even alone in a cabin in the woods helps to free the mind from distractions and focus on a writing task, but writers’ retreats have the added bonus that you have the companionship of other writers around you. This, of course, can be a risky thing! Creatives can be a very wild and unruly creatures. I’m fortunate to be able to say, I’ve had no bad experiences. In fact, I’ve made some good friends and kept in touch. The advantage of being in such an environment far outweighs the risks. You get to meet up for meals and chat about writing and the work problems of the day, so you don’t feel isolated. And when writers scatter to their own cells to work after meals, one feels one must comply. It is a great environment in which to write.

The big disappointment is that it takes so long to get the city and work out of my hair, and to get into the writing routine – if not frame of mind – and once I have it’s a short time until I have to head back to the day job again, and the challenge then becomes maintaining that writing focus and discipline during life beyond the retreat. Wondrous will be the day when my time will be for one thing only – writing. I slightly envy writers that can write at the drop on the hat, on a train, or in a noisy cafe. Not I.

As I looked out over the beautiful Shropshire hills, with swallows launching and docking in regular sorties, it all took a while (and not a few walks) to seep into this city-slicker and draw me down to a slower, less distracted state of mind. Once I’m in that state, my head then enters the parallel universe of my writing, and my real surroundings become scarcely of any importance at all, with the worlds in my head receiving all attention.

That is the joy, and the irony, of the writer’s retreat.

Add comment June 15th, 2018

Forget Superman – only Justin Bieber can save us now!

While the Euro hurtles towards collapse, there is hope for the world, in the form of … Justin Bieber.

The Telegraph’s Debt Crisis Blog reveals

“Analysts are getting good vibes from the packed-out stores in the States – particularly vendors of Justin Bieber apparel and Twilight merchandise.”

Who could have forseen such a day!

Add comment November 25th, 2011

The kindness of strangers

I’ve noticed a new phrase in the daily lexicon of Irish people. It’s one that I haven’t heard around this land in a long time, until this week – “the kindness of strangers.”

Snow drifts and financial storms happen for a reason. Trouble brings people together.

Add comment December 3rd, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

With my new year’s impetus I dived into my backlog of books to read. Top of the list (because it was thinnest) is a book I’d intended to read for a while, a book I’d heard much about: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I knew nothing about it, but was determined to find out what all the fuss was about. I still haven’t found out. I have, however, read the book. I can cross it off my list.

I can understand that it may have been controversial at the time it was published, especially in a time where the memory of the harsh sacrifices war was still fresh in the adult generation, and a time when the teenager generation had not yet been given their iconic advocate of James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. But today, perhaps a youth that is disillusioned, confused, and truant is no longer a worrying pointer of the future, but is now an engrained issue in society. When we hear regular news bulletins of happy-slapping, drug and alcohol abusing teenagers, teenage gangs, knife crimes, etc., then Holden Caulfield’s peccadillos seem tame by modern society’s standards.

The voice of the protagonist was certainly strong and convincing and of its time, but everything “killed” him. That killed me … after a while. While reading it, I wondered if a modern equivalent novel of disillusioned youth, laced with OMG!s and Whatevaar!s would attract as much interest as this book.

The biggest disappointment for me was, while the character voice was strong, the story was weak. It meandered. It went nowhere. Maybe that was the point. Maybe it was a clever way to show the lack of any purpose or trajectory in Caulfield’s life. Ok. I get that. But, I didn’t think it was very well done. Look at Karoo as an example. It had a similar type of meandering tale with a strong character voice. Karoo, in a way, is a middle-aged version of Caulfield’s character. I think the big difference was humour and irony. Caulfield’s was a humourless character. Karoo had a wry way of looking at the world and things happened to him. Aren’t things supposed to happen to a protagonist? Karoo certainly had a definitive ending. And something happened. Something that made you realise how much the character had grown on you. Holden Caulfield? I was glad to say goodbye to him. His story didn’t end, it just stopped, where it stopped. Not because it had arrived anywhere. It just stopped. So did I. It was a disappointment that (in my view) didn’t live up to the hype. Maybe it’s just not my taste.

So onto the next classic. I might try a little Dostoevsky this time.

Add comment January 26th, 2010

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