Look at what they, that is, we, bring to the world: novels, magazine articles, newspaper stories, television comedies and dramas, blogs, internet content, and now e-books. Consequently, for years, we writers have helped publishers sell their magazines, newspapers, TV pilots, and novels. Now, our writing is helping sell e-readers like the Kindle and Nook because these devices need the content we write.
In the last five years, as the economy has wallowed in recession, the publishing industry has taken a beating as much as any other industry. The future of books will continue to evolve but writers will still be needed to generate compelling content. And although the medium may change from paper to digital, the need for the written word remains.
The written word allows us, as writers, to creatively exchange ideas, to entertain, to educate, to motivate, to enlighten, to soothe, to spark debate, to unveil history, to share a laugh, and to speak to the heart.
I read an inspiring quote today that speaks to this notion of why the world needs writers. To feel its full impact, as you read it, turn and face your bookshelf as though you were speaking directly to the books.
“These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice…and just as the touch of a button on your set will fill the room with music, so by taking down one of these volumes and opening it, one can call into range the voice of a man far distant in time and space, and hear him speaking to us, mind to mind, heart to heart.” Gilbert Highet
Think about this. Books are “minds alive on the shelves…one can call…the voice of a man far distant in time and space…and hear him speaking to us…”
Isn’t this why we relate to books we admire; we hear the voice of the author, we connect with his thoughts, we identify with her characters, we relate to his ideas, settings, and premise, we engage her plots, we weave through his subplots, and we anxiously anticipate the ending? Novelists, living or dead, thrill us with their artistry as we gaze upon their work.
Notice how we have “reached across the distance in time and space and heard authors speaking to us” yet today. Consider this: A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1859), 200 million copies sold. The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954), 150 million copies sold. The Hobbit, (1937) 100 million sold. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis, 1950), 85 million sold. The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger, 1951), 65 million sold. Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1908), 50 million sold. Charlotte’s Web, (E.B. White, 1952), 45 million sold. To Kill a Mockingbird, (Harper Lee, 1960) and Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell, 1936), 30 million sold. Sales of these books will extend far beyond the authors’ lifetime.
While the jury is out on the future of “paper books,” it is not out on the future of reading. Our message will still be delivered but it’s fascinating to consider that the words we write could one day outlive us.
I’m not saying that you or I will be the next Dickens, Lewis, Mitchell, Grisham, Steele, Roberts, Patterson, or Sparks, but I am saying the world will always need a good story.
And if they need a good story, they’ll need a good storyteller.
Why not you?
The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.
Blog entries are posted on Thursday.
You may contact me at: email@example.com.