Living a Golden Era? Are you a Serious Writer?

By Peter B. Giblett

It is curious how many of us look back to yesteryear as some golden era, a time when things were perfect. For many writers of the current day, this may harken back to Paris of the 1920s when great writers like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were at home in the city’s Montparnasse district, spending time on the Left Bank – home of the great artistic people of that era. They were also friends of renowned artists, like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. Just mentioning those names stirs such great possibilities, it is possible to see the conversations between reputed friends and rivals.

Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Leigh Bracket, Arthur C, Clarke, Bertram Chandler and others were at home creating Science Fiction’s golden age during the 1940s being active in that genre during a time of change, maturing in their craft. It was after all an era of great human and technical change, a time to envision a better future.

Talent?

The truth is we can always look at another era as being the time when talented artists existed. It will be the writers of tomorrow that will look back at the current era and maybe recognise it as the golden era of Internet writing. This is where essays and articles were first published on blogs for the entire world to see. We, the internet writers of today, are discovering new boundaries for writing, we are exposing our works so that, potentially, every person on the planet can examine them, critique them, and tell us that we are wrong, for this era is different to all earlier ones, anyone can be a critic, anyone can post anything they wish. That said, there is an enormous difference between the instant critic and the serious writer, albeit that a serious writer can also be a critic.

I consider myself a serious writer, even if I have not earned a fortune from the craft to date. Success with writing is not based on books published or dollars earned. Yes, I have one book published and am working on others. Earning from your writing is arguably harder today than in other eras. Through history, many talented artists died poor and alone. In this regard, I do consider writing to be another art-form, just as powerful as the works produced by a paintbrush. Web writers stand to live a life of poverty and die paupers.

Meet for Coffee?

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We cannot all meet at the Inman Perk to get out of the rain, even if we wish it. “The glass encasement filled with muffins, cakes, pies, and other delicacies” sounds great. For now, I must satisfy myself with a home-made chocolate chip and banana muffin from our pantry and this morning’s coffee, reheated. The warming effect of the coffee was the same here as in that coffeehouse several hundred miles away, but people that I can look over are those on Facebook and Twitter. Where else can you see Mark Zuckerberg and Donald Trump occupying neighbouring seats, but in another second, or two, the participants change, then again once more there are new protagonists?

What you must not do when exploring and building the world-wide web is live there, get what you need and move on. There must be time to step away and ensure you don’t take it all too seriously. We don’t have to live in walking distance from other writers in the second decade of the twenty-first century to be in contact with them. We have so many tools, like email, instant messaging, and social media to keep us all connected.

I could be as effective writing at Mr. Cappuccino, which Google reliably tells me is an 8-minute walk, from home. Being at a coffee shop is not an important part of writing, but is does give writers the opportunity to study people. Studies of people, whether by Edouard-Manet of a woman reading in Café-de-Flore from old Paris or of the gruff man sat behind his notebook computer in the local Café give us a flavour of life. They are a part of life and part of our ability as an artist to describe what we see and make it come to life.

Able to See?

Our ability to see is not always literal. The blind man may see nothing, yet he can also see a great deal. I had a friend at law school who was blind and he told me what life was like as a blind person, how he could sense the space around him and how it changed when he walked. Yet another blind man recently told me that his other senses were not heightened as his blindness took control – he has little awareness of the space about him. Both have conquered their personal challenges and live life the fullest extent. Yet they are also a part of this inspection of this virtual café which exists right now providing lessons to this writer.

Writing, as with any other art-form, will draw inspiration from life. Writers are curious, which is why they draw inspiration from situations they witness.

Someone once told me a writer must ignite the inquisitive reader, but first, you must be an inquisitive writer, play with the string, push it, pull it, twist it, bend it, just to see what will happen for yourself. This is true even if the string is virtual. Then, and only then, is it possible to write about it. I believe we are living a golden era for writing, yet the writer must make what they can of this world then set about rationalising it for others.

A classical world is not necessarily better than a modern one, it is simply different. Whether in ancient Rome, Greece, or Egypt, life during the English Civil War, the French Revolution, the American War of Independence, each are different to modern life, each bring their own unique impact. The world should today, be thankful for all of history (the good, the bad, and the truly ugly) for exactly where we are. It is simply our foundation (as are the great eras of writing) and I for one am grateful for the inspiration it all brings.

The Featured Image is by Geralt, a CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay:


Monthly Contributor

peter

Peter B. Giblett

Peter B. Giblett is a freelance editor and writer with a background in business and technology management. He is also a non-practising lawyer. English born, now living in Canada. He’s an Alumni of City University (London) and University of West London. Entrant and winner of National Novel Writing Month 2015, a novel he is currently editing. He runs his own blog called GobbledeGoox, which provides thoughts on writing, blogging, words, and word-craft.

Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:

1) The Non-Fiction Contract

2) The Simple way to Write Non-fiction Creatively


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11 comments

  1. Great post!!! I actually love Inman Perk!!! I don’t go there to write but the atmosphere does spark creativity. I spend most of my time online but I find when I disconnect and enjoy the real world I am more creative.

    Like

  2. Some very vital thoughts. Often “commercial” success depends on the person’s marketing and networking skills, coupled with some luck.
    We have had some English writers in India who have become millionaires by selling a large number of books, but they are not considered that much top quality writing wise.
    On the other hand, some award winning writers end up leading a simple and often struggle filled life.
    But yes, one should never give up trying.

    Like

  3. Hi Peter,
    A very thought provoking piece. I often long to go back to a simpler time and place, but would want to take my iPhone, iPad and internet connection with me!
    I do value the talented artists of other eras and the richness they have gifted us with.
    But I am finding just as many talented writers online. I don’t think one is better than the other, or either less serious – they are just different.
    I for one, am grateful to have unlimited resources and worldwide connections at my fingertips. But you are so right, they don’t take the place of real life experiences, connections or the always intriguing pastime for writers – people watching. Local coffee shops certainly have cornered the market on that one!
    LOVE writing, watching and listening at my local shop.
    I am however sure that Paris would offer much more inspiration to me than my local coffee shop and I think I could
    be persuaded to trade in all my devices in exchange for an opportunity to write there for a month. 🙂

    Like

  4. Peter, I enjoyed this post on many levels. First, it prompted another thought about my grandfather. He loved to sit and watch people. He would tell me stories based on their demeanor or facial expressions. I think in ways he forced me to use my imagination. Second, I always pictured famous writers as lonely people, but I know that is not true all the time. They had problems just like anyone else. My thought is they would use those raw emotions to fuel their writing ideas; I know I do. Personally, I like to be in solitude to focus on my writing. My golden time is early morning before any distractions come my way. I’m easily distracted.

    The internet has given us an edge in certain ways, but the internet still can’t replace our thoughts or imagination. I do like visiting my local library and book stores. I still prefer real books instead of digital. However, digital does have its convenience at times.

    I appreciate this post, Peter. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Peter. Nicely done. It’s difficult to imagine a world of only pen and paper, yet, those were the tools of some of listed writers. However, some might have used a typewriter. Conjuring up images of pipe smoke and key strokes, we may view their lives and writing as more difficult, and thus, give them additional credit for their writing.

    Yes, we have it easier today from the standpoint of access to computers, spell or grammar checks, and images for visual appeal, however, with the ability to instantly publish a blog, there is that much more competition for attention.

    While we haven’t had time to meet at The Perk, the phone has shortened the distance between us, Peter, and that to me makes my life fuller, richer, and more rewarding. Being able to connect with you as a writer and listen to your struggles with your eyesight and how you didn’t let that stop you from writing, was inspirational.

    Thank you for this nostalgic reminder of long-ago writers and the benefits of virtual, while remembering that writing takes place in our imaginations first, usually inspired by what we observe in our real lives.

    Liked by 4 people

    • To a large extent there are times when the computer and its spelling and grammar checkers makes us lazy. I read something that talked about those gathering of artists on the Left-Bank in the 1920 and it started me thinking about the participants in Gertrude Stein’s Saturday evening salons and how the majority of the attendees are today seen as great masters. I remember specifically Hemingway’s Parisian writing and did enjoy it.

      These words, are still ringing in my mind, even ten days or so after completing this piece I have been thinking about how they will make part of a perfect novel.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Peter, this is thought provoking. I think writers of the past were more solitary in their craft. Now we can google any literary device and see how to use it instantly. They had to experiment, contemplate, and ponder the words. Not that we don’t, but I think we do so with more analysis and comparison because of the tools at our fingertips.
    I value your advice not to live in the online world. To me the real world is much more interesting than the virtual one will ever be. Your piece has given me the sudden desire to go to Inman Perk, which is less than an hour from my front door, to sit and take in all the sights and smells, in order to gather them in words. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think us writers are still largely solitary beings, even if we have the aid of Google. There is an argument that we should spend time in the library researching our subject in real books rather than using Google. With Google Maps and StreetView we can even see what a particular location (that we have never been to) is like and describe that in our work, but we won’t get to know the personality of the area.

      I love coffee bars and for me it entails a visit to Mr Cappuccino, or perhaps Starbucks, 3 miles away. I do get so much from it watching how people go about their business. But to use those sights and sounds in our writing we must still do the writing.

      Liked by 2 people

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