In response to the kind friends who noticed I hadn't been blogging much lately, I submit this poorly-thought-out installment.
I've actually been writing quite a bit in recent weeks, but I find my ideas haven't been flowing so well. I wish I could blame it on the cold, as I do everything else. Frozen brain cells or some such excuse would fit quite well. But that's not really the case. I think I have an attitude problem.
Firstly, some part of me wants to submit a funny and meaningful think-piece every time I hit the "publish" button. Even though the size of my audience is small, your feedback has been so helpful and your support so important, that I feel like a lazy pseudo-wordsmith just cranking out chore lists, bird pictures and the occasional wisecrack about our government. I want to say something more meaningful, more useful, more helpful.
I also get a little annoyed at my own behavior when I do post a blog. I check the stats constantly, even though I know I shouldn't care, and I even read spam comments, just in case some best-selling author decides to leave me some free advice. Clearly I'm too preoccupied with the reactions of others. I can't honestly say I'm just writing for myself. If I'm only blogging for my own satisfaction, why do I respond to the readership statistics in such a needy manner?
I'm kind of depressed about the whole subject of books and writing, too, if you want to know the truth. (Not that I'm writing a book, but the subjects are connected in my thinking processes.) Everywhere I go, it seems I'm reminded of the demise of the printed word, and that saddens me. In my city, a free-standing Barnes & Noble closed a while back, in order to move into a beautiful new addition at our mall. Their original building still remains empty two years later. More recently, Borders filed bankruptcy and is closing my local store as part of the effort to stay in business. Two mega-bookstores will stand empty less than 5 miles from my home. That seems ominous.
Experts assure us that Americans are reading as much as we ever did, just in different formats, and I hope they are correct. Because it's clear that Americans can't write worth a darn anymore. Writing as a basic skill seems to have been in a constant state of decline (according to my elders) since I was a child. Communication technologies like texting have accelerated the process drastically, in my amateur opinion. Everywhere I look there are abbreviations and slang that used to be in limited usage; now "4" is an acceptable substitute for the useful preposition "for" in almost any venue. And since when did it become acceptable to write "u" instead of "you?" Who decided that? People with tired finger syndrome?
But abbreviations have always been with us. What's really reached an abysmal state is the creation of a logical, meaningful sentence. Take a gander at a few ads on Craigslist or ebay and tears of laughter quickly turn to tears of sadness, when you read the examples of adult writing skills on display. Some would say I'm being picky - what's a misspelling between friends? Would that it were only a spelling issue. People who can afford to buy and sell expensive antique furniture, cars, lake homes and jewelry, cannot describe their precious possessions in words and language that would rate a D-, and that's grading on a curve.
Well-written print media seems to have become irrelevant. I spent a few minutes browsing the bargain table at our soon-to-be defunct Borders the other day. So many books, with glossy covers, glowing reviews ("...without a doubt, the finest debut high school vampire trans-gender novel I've read in the last five minutes..."), and thrillingly high hopes by the author, stand in huge piles, marked down several times, until a $25.95 hardback published by a once-great publishing house is going home with deal-seeker for $2.99. It depressed me to see so many unwanted, unread books.
We bought my mother-in-law a Kindle e-reader, and she has thoroughly enjoyed the convenience of the device. Being disabled, she is an ideal candidate for such technology, and I'm very glad that it is available to her. But contrast that to a woman in line ahead of me at the grocery store recently. Her tweenage son was annoyed because the battery in his iPhone was dead. The lady handed him her e-reader (a nice Nook, I think), and suggested he find something to read. To this helpful gesture he rudely replied that he didn't feel like using "that big pile of junk." Dealing with her son in distracted-parent mode, she ignored his mouth/attitude/ingratitude and offered her iPhone to placate the poor, neglected child (I named him Damien.)
I don't know where I'm going with this line of thinking, but for some reason these scenarios seem connected and the outcome concerns me. How can someone not like books? How can an author put his heart and soul into a project, get it published, and then see it gather dust? How can it be that the neighborhood book store has gone the way of the neighborhood soda shop or greengrocer or shoe store - a place for people to visit for the purpose of buying something tangible from a human who speaks and smiles to you, and knows something about the product you seek?
I suppose this melancholy is the reason I've been unwilling to publish any of my raves lately. These thoughts aren't funny. But to hold back my words unless I can be sure of causing a grin is not healthy for me - as a person or a writer. So I'm going to post some of these less-than-cheerful essays over the coming days, and I hope I don't turn anyone away with my "Debbie Downer" routine.
Yes, I'm an optimist. That hasn't changed. And I lead a blessed, mostly easy existence, for which I'm very grateful. But I'm in a mood, and I can no longer pretend that bothersome trends don't bother me. They do concern me, and I want to work through some of those concerns here.
So my future ravings may be less funny, less slapstick, less day-in-the-life silliness, but I promise I'll keep it polite.