I had a post all prepared for this month’s column, a pretty piece I’m sure you would have enjoyed, written with all the passionate engagement of a third person omniscient narrator. But that’s not where I am today, at this moment, my feet tucked below a cotton cover the color of a cocoa bean. No, today I’m feeling the lonely disengagement that comes with the writing life.
Isn’t it ironic we must labor alone so we can connect with our readers? For me, this is by far the most difficult part of the profession. After all there are only so many “conversations” I can have with my dogs before even I have to admit I may have a problem. And living in the world of my characters? Of course, provided it doesn’t cross that fine line separating fantasy and reality.
Yesterday I went to my local bookstore. It’s the only bookstore within twenty miles of my house. I just about had a heart attack when I saw row after row of empty shelves, and dolly carts carrying merchandise from, not to, the sales floor. The kind fellow who always seems to be working the music section reassured me that the store is merely rearranging – moving all books upstairs and expanding toys and giftware. He seemed perplexed by my observation this meant that the store would obviously be carrying fewer books, but I didn’t press the point. After all, if my intuition is right, this guy may be out of a job fairly soon.
That’s what’s happened to all of the other bookstores in this area in the three years I’ve lived here. Like the library’s hours, the book purveyors have disappeared before my eyes, leaving in their wake a foggy sense that there is nowhere but the internet for writers to congregate. The three writers’ groups that were housed by the bookstores that have folded have themselves disappeared, one now housed in a temporary space an hour from my home, another on life support in a medical reception area (I don’t know if that strikes you as weird, but I find it a bit odd). There is a definite sense that, at least in my little corner of the world, those of us who crave interaction with our fellow writers are just going to have to settle for internet hook-ups.
What is a writer to do? What do YOU do now that we lovers of the written word are being squeezed further and further out of the public space?