The democratization of the word or why making soap for a living sounds better every day

People need soap. In the United States, it's part of our social contract: We agree not to bowl people over with our BO in exchange for pleasantries in the conference room, grocery store and around the kitchen table. Soap, be it liquid, in bar form, vegan or tallow-based, matters.


I met a media professional the other day who was decrying the initiative of a college journalist he knew. "How is he going to make it as a reporter?" he asked.

"He won't," I said. "Poor kid will be composing 140-character tweets for the rest of his life."

On Sunday, the NY Times ran a story about Bradley Inman, an entrepreneur who is working on a multimedia platform for the novel--the Vook. This sent chills down my spine. Like waking up one day and realizing, your Soylent Green crackers aren't just crackers. The "reader's" imagination--and indeed the imtimacy between writer and reader--is being coopted by publisher-controlled visuals. How many times have we said, "Yeah, the movie was OK, but it wasn't as good as the book"?

Most writers, myself included, are a bunch of ego-driven verbal exhibitionists. We don't play well with others. That's not to say we can't bend those steely egos, especially if we're bending to the will of an exceptional editor. But, in general, we like those words to be our words. That fiction should become a conversation between writers, scriptwriters, the audience and corporate investors, challenges the tradition of the individual artist. I interviewed a Hollywood scriptwriter recently who worked on an extremely well-written television show in the 1990s. "The reason it was so good," he said, "was that they left us (the writers) alone." The show was not written by committee or driven by audience research.

I realize that I'm totally whining, a prima-donnasaurus whose butt's chapped that the epoch is ending. There are many cool things about social media and the integration of media platforms. To some degree it's upending the pins of our "bowling-alone" society. But for us oldsters, writers spoiled by king-sized, 3,000-word feature wells, scribblers who have dined out for years on decadent word-play and pretty fat sentences, it's a dry cracker to swallow.

So today when Twitter asks, "What are you doing?"

Fighting heartburn. And heartache. Then maybe taking a bath. (60 characters, whew.)

Comments (4) -

April 9. 2009 10:45


Gah! I'm wid you, baby. On the other hand, have you tried making a living making soap? All crafts are at risk these days - and hand-written is only just going the way of hand-made. Third-world wages, anyone?

Susan |

April 9. 2009 14:35


I'm actually following a guy on Twitter who is tweeting a novel. I'm curious if it's already written, and he's just releasing it 140 characters at a time, or if he's just pulling it out of his @$$ each tweet.

It's kind of hard to follow.

I can't imagine a world w/o real books. (Look at me ... I was too lazy to type without.)

Some editors still allow us to air it out some, to work with bigger ideas. We just have to be painfully concise.

Roxanne |

April 9. 2009 15:11


I am more a consumer of the written word than a producer (my job, before I retired, was largely writing but it was not creative writing - it involved just the ability to express technical, legal concepts in language that the average American could understand) but I agree with you 100%.  As my partner has said, there is nothing more efficient or practical than a paperback book - it's small, easily portable & inexpensive.  All of the electronic substitutes, cost a lot more, are bulkier & more fragile.  And they can in no way compare to the feeling of having a new book in your hands, admiring the cover art, cracking it open & reading the first few words.  If you are lucky, with some hardcovers, you still get that "new book" smell (that & the smell of leather are my 2 favorites.  Not all new technology is an improvement over the existing product.

mwknitter |

April 9. 2009 15:37

Seth Meranda

Content still starts with writing. Smile

Seth Meranda |

Comments are closed