What it means to be a writer in the age of information

My wife’s great grandmother asked me in a rather deliberate tone, an hour so into our first meeting.
“What work you exactly do for a living”
“I am a writer”, I said spreading caviar over toast
“Do you make enough money to support the family.”
Babushka is well into her 90’s, was still going to school during World War II, living on nothing but syrupy jelly made from wild growing berries in the neighbourhood, holding out against the harsh Siberian winters on nothing but sheer stealth associated with Russian woman.  The 2 of us share the most amazing connection thanks to the speech feature on Google Translator app. We can go on talking for hours.

Coming back to her opinion of a writer – can one be taken seriously – seems more long standing than recently acquired. The question dear readers remain, has the information age honestly done anything to help the cause of the writer like it has to the painter, or musician, photographer, or engineer.

Talent notwithstanding, a painter can log onto an app, and indulge in a plethora of features, enabling gadgets, to supplement the natural process of creative expression. Photography has been oversold to ridiculous proportions with the infusion of technology in the last decade or so. Composing music if you may want to break down the process to it’s bare skeletal structure, and still sound like a novice, has become all bout arranging information over a dashboard, whilst you have sampled your choicest sound bits.  There is no going wrong with the proven formula when its comes to the arts. You dive in, practise to your wits end, gain mastery, hope to be generously bestowed by the gods of creativity, do the work, and there you are where you deserve to be. There is the added layer that is technology, or information as you may want to look at it.

What is elemental here is the study of the arts and how it may be elevated to the next level with the help of technology and information. Here is case of trying to convince the self of an argument, which one may extrapolate that logic may meander through devious geographies of the mind in order to reach at the summit of conviction, however there is no denying the distance traversed, the questions asked, the skins adorned, the minds borrowed, and explanations, oh dearly explanations that show the way to this summit of conviction. With distance comes the weight that makes the mass, drive that pushes ahead, undercurrent thinking otherwise, surface tension holding it together, and whatever forces that may be, and there is only as much dousing your own apprehensions.

While I’am trying to plead the case of a writer, my own thoughts somehow circle back to the musician, or the painter telling me – ‘ its all the same’, and there again goes a trail of necessary self argumentations that pleads for the writer. There’s a sense that coyly catches up to me, like a rumbling motor pulled over for speeding, that the writer is in need of help, more so compared to the musician, or the painter, to make a mark in this age of information, and this help considering this to be a common serviceable commodity,  is all the more difficult to come by.

Beyond the client requirements, target audience of the employer, an egotistical editor, or even an unreasonably vindictive critic, one cannot help but overlook a slew of judgements on a generic plane – prove your sanity, social acceptance, intellectual relevance, contemporaneous sustainability, commercial feasibility. Before my mind throws me the proposition of all the suffering and poverty of Van Gogh, I quietly tell myself that we are talking of the information age here. Consider him on Instagram, and then Nietzsche or a Kafka on twitter, garnering an audience for their craft.

The writer in the information age is simply at the gates of El Dorado of information. There are fortresses, galleries, museums, libraries, universities, marketplaces, dark alleyways everything for them to reach out. There are gates that will open, there are doors that will allow passage, yet there is the otherwise. The writer not only has the variety at disposal, but pursue the depths that they may seek. Easier said than done, because with choice comes the surety of getting lost, even your own backyard can be a labyrinth of indecisions, all you need is sprinkle of choices. Depth in pursuit can simply be marred by Search Engine Optimization algorithms. You may never hit the page that you want to be at, or that information you are looking for may be too widely scattered, further made inaccessible through payment gateways, simply not worth the money if you don’t have it. There is no all-knowing librarian who can tell you the alley and shelf as they indifferently adjust their reading glasses. What you can to have, or rather become because in most cases, as a writer you would not have the resources to employ one – a search engine wizard, with all the contacts in dark net and what nots.

Then my dear writer, you are not just the only person at the gates of these hallowed grounds. There is every other honourable or otherwise, god fearing or not, with intentions questionable or philanthropic, nonetheless citizen of this cyberspace, with all the accesses, and rest assure much more resources, for the writer is self-assured in his trade, and over his head to forage such for base tricks of the future, when his chosen vocation has stood up to the test of time for eons. However, these aforementioned citizens, with the resources that will just suffice and the skillset to put a paragraph together, and the added technology to even be a critic to your work, will do the job, minus any obligations to the spirit of creation, move ahead in life making the way for countless others to follow suit. There you have a generation of writers in the age of information.

A writer today, who has turned his back to world, and doing it all over again is not very much different, when you think of the — censorship of Doestovsky in Tsarist Russia, or Bulgakov desperate for acceptance in the age of Stalin, Ginsberg pleading for the brightest minds of his generation, and the right to be queer of course, Emerson in his belief of the limitlessness of the ‘private man’, paving the way for Thoreau. The countless revisions made on Leaves of Grass, the immortal collection of poems of Walt Whitman, even as he reached a grizzly old age, Tennyson and Dickens in their Victorian charm or the lack of it, Virginia Woolf pioneering instant prose, which later Kerouac made relevant to his time, Faulkner in his celebration of America, Hemingway with his disregard for context or Rushdie in his exile, or some personage of the future when Elon Musk has occupied Mars and made language as relevant as camp fires. They all had had to, or would have had to fuel their fire, channelize the steam, prove their relevance, and keep doing it, and this is true across the arts.

The artist has always been faced with the infinite, in the scope of possibilities in expression, the consequent expansion of the mind, the perils to the upkeep of mental health, the ways one can deviate from their true calling. The writer one argues forms the vanguard against this infinitude, because one the evolution of the craft is very idealistic per se, more technical and less paraphernalia, as you can only think of a keyboard, or a speech to text app, and at best a grammar checker, an e-dictionary that also tells you synonyms and rhymes, and that is as much of technology in 50,000 years of language. Two – the age old filters that the work must go through like coherence, or censorship, has undergone not a very steep evolutionary curve. We humans are never short of imposing restrains on all inhabitants of the planet, more so on our own kind. So the awkward writer is not much displaced from the first of it’s kind, not as much as a choice, as he may like to believe, but that is where the state of trade is at. The coming of the age of information has only meant for the writer, that this gaping abyss of infinity just opened its arms wide open.

Imagine

imagine
to be born again
cleansed of memory, instinct, bias…
to jump the gun,
like water falling out of shape
break away from the common stride
and walk the world anew
just pure thought

the sage smeared in ash
the soldier in defeat abashed
a child upon a puddle of mud
the city streets drunk on rain
a roaring engine is kicked to life
the rush of blood that throttle brings
yonder meadows growing wild
ancient rocks under the afternoon sun
the breeze is nimble to the touch
to hold the world in a grain of sand
countless worlds washed ashore
countless more on the ocean floor

a world without the love for god
a world that needs not right from wrong
a world that speeds, yet never found in haste
a world that knows its rhythm and bass
a world that sings its wishful dreams
where song and dance feeds the soul
a world where little is valued most
a world of plenty, to your taste

alas the restrain
the weight of being
an existential exile
that makes fickle pleasantries
of such visions fit for opiate trance,
starlight wrung out of the very cloth of the sky
or them elder poets who drew
verses from the stream
where society washed woes and perhaps pride

and the inner solace we seek
churned out of the wheel
a moment that impresses upon the next
into a generous resonance,
submerged in an ocean of consciousness
a body of imagination
where priceless pearls lay furlongs deep
on the surface the scum will weep