Who is Capable Anymore?

I keep reading how “this generation is muddying up the entire culture by its Zombian characteristics. You know, education has created students without creativity, only good for multiple choices, no innovation, all robotic responses. Have you heard this?

Am I overreacting? Perhaps. But I might throw a few examples out to you. While the prior generation created a mass circuitry of internet travel for the minds of all peoples, this generation can’t pull their noses out of their phones, the television, games, and preps for college for more of the same.

Am I being harsh? Yes, I know. While mass production of self-published books is on the rise, there does not seem to be writers like generations long before, the generations of a myriad and multitude of authentic, well written, communicative at the highest level, writers of true blood and bone of narration. If we go back to the turn of the century, consider just a few authors like Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Virginia Wolff, Flannery O’Connor, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Charlotte, and Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Feodor Dostoyevsky, and so many more going back to the turn. What I notice is there are more GREATS passed the c.50’s and as we get closer to our time, there are less and less great authors.

Or is this just my opinion? Is it because I studied the classics and have read more than the current milieu of authors?

I have read some authors of note and of this current time, but from the generation just before this one. There are some of note currently,  such as Pat Conroy, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Khaled Hosseini, and…. oh wait! None of those are from THIS generation!

What I see in this generation of writers are a lot of rebellious, privileged writers who–whether good or not–has decided they WILL BE published and not go through the gatekeepers; the big publishing houses, because, well… they don’t need anyone’s permission or standard of writing to consider themselves writers. Wow. We’ve come to a long ways from the turn of the century.

I like the idea that there are gatekeepers in larger publishing houses because the standards really are higher, and the fact that they are, make for more diligence and creative effort in writers and their work. The quality of writing is higher, and the story of writing is better told. Well, I am not completely being fair. The stories may be well told if writers create enough fodder to practice and become good writers, but at the expense of the glut of books out there that are beginning to create less interested people as readers.

Millennials, as I pointed out, are great at reading games, tv reality shows, and fluff of any kind. Why we even had to create a whole large reading section of comic book books because that is the rave today: books with pictures.

I wonder if those diseases we see growing, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and such, might be because the television generation (mine) did too much of a good thing like watching it, and now their brain has hardly a muscle in it at all. The attention span of most Millenials is so short we write books about getting our point across in seconds because we know that is really all we have as far as anyone paying attention to what you say? So reading books? God bless ’em.

I was a late bloomer, it’s true. I am a baby boomer but at the tail end. I did not go to college until I was thirty-seven after I married and had children. But having read older writers and even biblical texts, I found that my writing and communication skills were quite remarkable…until, that is, I went to college at an older age.

The first thing I was told in an “English” class was that my sentences were too long, too complicated and that I was to simplify my communication in writing. Yes. I was reprimanded for writing like the writers of the turn of the century. I lost myself somewhere in that reprimand. Oh, I graduated with a B level GPA, but it was not as I had hoped when going for a degree to teach English. I substituted for 10 years. What a waste of life that was. Schools, English classes were so dumbed down, I lost hope and finally stopped believing I would do any good as a teacher.

I have been working on one book for over ten years, editing and re-editing; worrying about being too exhaustively communicative and descriptive like Michener, or Faulkner. I am “dumbing down” my own writing and it hurts. I have begun to feel that there is no hope in being a bonafide writer who might be picked up by a big publisher. That is until I read Donna Tartt. Her book, “The Goldfinch” gave me hope.

The tide is turning. We need writers who challenge readers to work a little harder to imagine characters, imagery, tone, and landscape. We need writers to help expand the muscles of brains of today’s readers, we must get back to extending the sinews of those components that make for greater and deeper thought and passion; reach their emotions that seem lacking due to games and television. We need to have more podcast stories like the old fashion radio shows because that does similar to reading. Why not?

Why don’t we as writers prepare our work for the big publishing houses and take a rejection, maybe it’s true: we’re not that good and need more chutzpah to try a little harder. Guts for glory, that’s what I think. You’ll be rewarded by a better generation after this one if there will be any at all.