A few weeks ago, a reader sent me an interesting message. Working as a sales representative in a local publishing house she asked one of the company’s writers why they didn’t have/start a blog. The response has been playing in my head for some time: “because I’m not going to write anything I’m not getting paid for.”
Besides the fact that blogs do have the ability these days to actually make money through advertising, I suppose it’s not as easy as a consistent paycheck. But, in any case, those words have been turning over in my head for a while now.
A metaphor: people have sex for various reasons, one more prevalent than the rest. But when one insists on having sex strictly if they’re getting paid for it, well, then, there’s usually a word for that. And this is usually what we have littered in the Jordanian media industry. Now I’m not saying that writers or journalists who don’t have blogs are, well, you know. But to limit one’s aspirations as a writer to the production of words in exchange for money, well, you know.
Writing isn’t merely a job. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be categorized that way.
For me, it’s a passion. It’s a way to communicate the zillion thoughts that run through my head everyday. It feeds in to various other passions and it becomes automatic. When I read an interesting piece of news, I want to articulate my thoughts on it digitally. When I see an interesting movie, I’m already writing a review in my head. And we are all exactly the same. We all do it. Except usually, the writing takes place mentally and not digitally. So really, blogging at its purest, is merely a transfer of thoughts in to a digital format.
The goals of such an exercise vary widely and every blogger has one or several. Mine are simple enough: channel that passion – start a conversation. Whatever side-effects are derived from both these elements working together in this maddening crucible I call a blog, are simply sub-goals, and they come and go as they please; evolving.
And that is what I’m getting at. It’s not about blogging, it’s about writing.
If people write strictly for money (and there’s nothing strictly wrong about that) and leave passion out of the equation, then there’s something wrong with the media sector. Heck, there’s something wrong with this particular skillset found in this particular country. And I think the environment itself is highly reflective of that.
I’ve been to press conferences just to observe other writers. In most cases, they have absolutely no interest in investigation. At one conference that revolved around USAID-funding of projects, a journalist actually asked the subject to give him a nice, warm story of a beneficiary to write about. “Maybe a farmer,” he said.
On the other hand, I know a Jordanian author who has had several books banned. Can you imagine the amount of time one invests in writing a book, only to have it banned by officials? Can you imagine the amount of time and energy spent on visiting the authorities everyday as you watch them tare your book apart; black bars across the words you spent hours writing and mulling over? Can you imagine the kind of passion it must take to want to write again and again and again even after all that time and energy is stolen from you by a single decision.
If you don’t have that kind of passion, that kind of drive, can you really call yourself a writer?
Even if you get paid for it?
In the industry of writing there have always been rewards. In the movies, the journalist character is always after the hard-hitting story. Sometimes they’re looking for a Pulitzer, at other times, just a promotion. And sometimes, it’s the story itself that drives them. The telling of it. And movies don’t lie. They’re written by writers.
And so I wonder to myself, what is the impact?
Is this why we have so little “great writers” of our time? Why the industry is so limited? Why we assume people don’t read anymore? Why we constantly quote that statistic of: more books are translated to Spanish every year than are even produced in the whole Arab world? Where is our Pulitzer? Our greats? Do we mourn the passing of Darwish, Mahfouz and Sa’ed, because they were our greats, or because they are part of a rare and dying breed? Is it out of fear that no new names will fill the voids they’ve left behind?
A metaphor: I’ve met many artists in my life, and very few of them were wealthy. Even fewer had aspirations for wealth. In my mind, the ability to write anything at any time simply to fulfill a passion, is what distinguishes an artist from just another house painter.