It looks like success in writing is about building a “platform.” That’s the word I see everywhere now. A platform is a foundation of connections and achievements, and the more of these that you have, the stronger your platform is.
I don’t know how I feel about this. It sounds to me like writing has turned into a popularity contest. It’s not about storytelling, it’s about bankability.
This is the way things go nowadays, I suppose. It’s an age when any clown on YouTube can find fame and success simply by vlogging about what he buys at the store each day. Whether you’re writing a novel, reviewing a video game, or sharing the minutiae of your life, you are involved in “content creation,” a term so clinical and so far removed from artistic value that it’s depressing.
It’s most frustrating because I saw it coming. I didn’t have some psychic vision. I saw the successes of certain webcomics over the years as the internet grew. The most popular webcomics were wildly inconsistent in quality or meaning, but God damn it, they updated everyday.
That’s how you build a platform, I guess. You keep cranking things out. You stay in touch. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have anything important to say, or if inspiration has struck you. You just keep putting your chips out there.
Could I live with myself if I posted a daily vlog on YouTube that discussed excruciating trivialities with little to no value? Could I feel alright with that? Lord knows I don’t much like to talk unless I have something good to say, and then I like to be sure I express myself to greatest effect. If you want to build a platform, though, you need fans, you need to clamor for Twitter followers, you have to beg for YouTube subscribers. You have to be an online attention whore.
My friend Brenna and I had a short discussion about how we feel that human civilization has passed beyond the Information Age and moved into the Attention Age. Attention, it seems, is the most valuable currency of the generation. Now that we all have the capacity to plaster our faces on millions of screens, we’re in the midst of a veritable Attention Rush. Stake your claims now, folks.
Is that what writing is all about anymore? I suppose that if you want to make money doing it, then it is.
The world changes, but the results don’t change all that much. The most successful will the be the ones who love to show themselves off the most. I can only wonder how true writers — excuse me, “content creators” — like Sylvia Plath would manage in a day like this.