I’ve said many times before that it is an amazing time to be a writer. Yet, I think this age, this new Digital Renaissance might actually be more than we can imagine, and age of empowerment artists have never before experienced. We just need to be open to the future.
First, the Technology Problem
Many artists feel threatened by social media, computers, iPads and e-readers. I will admit that I used to be one of those people who refused to learn how to use e-mail. I used to write long, detailed letters to friends and family with stickers and pictures and pretty handwriting. I felt computers were too cold and impersonal, especially compared to expensive stationary from my Hallmark store.
Now, I no longer send frilly messages to a handful of friends and family. I actually interact with them daily on Facebook…more of them. I see their kids grow up even though they live half a world away. I share the daily triumphs, and can be there to support them in the trials too. It isn’s as fancy as my letters, but it is very, very personal in a way I hadn’t imagined possible 15 years ago.
Digital books are not the first technological advance that has left artists feeling threatened. I’m sure the dude who was in charge of recording all the stories and history on the cave walls felt threatened by the smarty pants who invented papyrus paper. Then there were all those monks who got downsized when the printing press came along.
Great, thanks to that Gutenberg jerk, everyone can be published.
When the Lumiere brothers invented the first cameras, people believed that artists would be obsolete, that photographs would take the place of paintings. When moving pictures were invented, many thought stage actors would also fade away into history. As we have seen, paintings and plays have endured and actually the technology invented brand new forms of art—photography and cinematography.
What no one accounted for is that art is the very essence of creation. We can’t stop it. The technology isn’t responsible for making the art, it is a vehicle for the art. Art will always remain and will always find a way to be expressed. Humans have a guiding imperative to create.
And that is awesome news for us.
Artists have had a Rough Road
When I gave up my job in sales to become a writer, my family didn’t speak to me for three years. I might as well have come home with a handful of magic beans and a tale about a castle in the sky and my pet unicorn.
What I find interesting is that, since the Industrial Revolution, we increasingly became a society that valued the artist less and less and less. In the 50s during the Space Race, schools started valuing the children who excelled at math and science and the arts were seen as something fluffy and unsubstantial.
Schools were set up to create new generations of factory workers, engineers and scientists who could support the military-industrial complex. Schools taught neat skills like sitting still for eight hours, coloring in the lines, and listening to authority. I think this is one of the reasons that teachers rail against all this “teaching to the test.” Teaching is an art, and few things can steal that art like a standardized test.
Art is the Essence of Humanity
Children are natural artists. They color dance and sing with abandon. Yet, some time about the age of 9, we are told it is time to get serious. One day we will need to go to college so we can get a “real job.”
I spent 15 years trying to fit myself in that straight-jacket mold and it just made me ill, depressed and angry. I was a child who’d immersed herself in ballet. When I wasn’t dancing, I was drawing art and writing stories on every spare scrap of paper or playing a clarinet. This creative creature then grew into an adult trying to work in corporate sales. Was it any wonder I was chronically ill with a sickness no doctor could name?
When I started pursuing my art, I became more myself than I’d been since the age of ten. I went from being a misfit, an ill-fitting cog in an alien machine to feeling my life fall almost magically into place.
The Funny Thing About Artists
Yet, what I find interesting is that artists are the intuitives that birth the science. Mary Shelley envisioned the human body as a bioelectric system before the scientists. Proust intuited that taste and smell were hardwired to memory before science proved that he was correct; that those are the two senses are uniquely sentimental because they are connected to the hypothalamus, thus the most strongly tethered to memory. George Eliot understood that the brain was a regenerate organ a hundred years before Dr. Elizabeth Gould discovered that brain cells actually did renew themselves and pioneered neurogenesis. Jules Verne envisioned a man on the moon and even intuited almost every detail of how we could do it…of how we actually did do it.
When artists create wild fantasy we lay the groundwork for the future. Artists envisioned a world with equal rights, a world with women in leadership, a world where humans traveled through space.
Artists take the impossible and make it real.
A society that embraces art is at a distinctive advantage. We have been a society working on a half a brain. We have valued the rational logical left brain at the expense of the imaginative, intuitive right brain. With technology we finally have an opportunity to become a world using its brain…all of it.
Technology and the Digital Renaissance
Technology will bring a Digital Renaissance simply because it is adding value to the artist. We are the only job that can’t be downsized, outsourced or automated. Machines can’t create art. Legions of cheap labor in China will not replace us.
As more people own computers and e-readers, the demand for art will only increase. Also, each of us has an artist inside, and technology allows all of us to express that nature. What is wonderful about the new paradigm is it is finally possible to make a living—a good living—as an artist. Sure, it is a lot of work and hard work, but is being a doctor easier? Any profession that is lucrative is a lot of work…only now we can do what we LOVE, so it is never work. Give me a fifty hour work week of writing and I will be HAPPY!
I actually am typing this sentence at 3:59 in the morning. I woke up at 2:00 and could’t sleep so I am working…and I love every second of it because I am doing what I was born to do.
Vive la Revolution!
I call WANA the Love Revolution. WANA (We Are Not Alone) is based on service above self and community, but it is poised on the fulcrum of LOVE. Love for our art, love for each other, and love for the world we are serving and changing. WANA is bigger than writing, so please recruit all the creatives you know. Our time is NOW!
Every revolution needs a leader…someone rugged, handsome, and stylish. There are exciting things ahead for the WANAs, so today let me introduce you to the spearhead of our movement. Meet, Francis…
I met Francis early this past March and his story was heartbreaking, so I had to find the dust-covered art supplies, put marker to paper and bring him to life so his story could inspire all of you. But, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Francis will be starring in a feature film that shows how WANA changed his life, and I believe you will be moved, that you will see how all of us are Francis. His debut film will be released soon, so stay tuned for the date. His feature is going to be part of the surprise I have in store for all of you. It is too big to give you at once, so I am giving it to you a taste at a time.
WANNA Be a WANA?
If Egypt can have a revolution using Facebook, then why can’t artists? This is OUR time. The more art we create, the better we become. We can use social media to find our future patrons, those who are dying to hear a good story, listen to a new song, dance a new dance. We can cultivate the love for our art and our art only gets better with time. We won’t have to worry that our job will get replaced with a 20 year old intern willing to work for half the pay. We won’t be told we are too old, the we need to retire because some college kid can do what we do.
We are artists and we are indispensable, indomitable and immortal.
It is the 21st century, a Digital New World and it is an awesome time to be an artist. Grab your pens and paintbrushes, your books and easels, and join the WANAs for a Love Revolution! Currently we are hanging out at #MyWANA on Twitter, but I have another surprise in store. A land where the WANAs roam free to create and be themselves.
It’s gonna be like CHRISTMAS! …which means you have to wait to open your presents :D.
So what is your story? Are you an ill-fitting cog in an alien machine? Do you long to create, but you are chained to the day job? Have you broken free from the “real job” and are now living your passion? Tell us your story!
By the way, for a really fantastic book about how artists have defined science, I recommend Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
***IMPORTANT MESSAGE–For those who have not gotten back pages. My web site fiasco has been responsible for eating a lot of e-mails. Additionally I get about 400 e-mails a day and the spam folder has a healthy appetite too. It is hard to tell since some people never claim their prize, but I could have very well just not seen your entry. Feel free to e-mail it again and just put CONTEST WINNER in the header so I can spot you easily. (especially if your message is kidnapped by the spam filter).
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.