Now of course, I don’t care––music, writing, art––we live in a world in which “what’s the diff” is the prime mover and those who go the viral route sell, but are also are dead on contact. It doesn’t matter if fabric makes a cent now or after I am gone, if it is meant to have an impact it will, I can only help it along.]
Raleigh, North Carolina
Cycling through Raleigh, I found myself falling into familiar rhythms. It was winter, the leaves were off the trees and the effect was more Stephen King than Maybury. A feeling of eerie emptiness pervaded the gentle urban folds. History stills hangs heavy on Raleigh, the mists of the Civil War have not quite departed, despite an influx of entrepreneurial hipsters and Research Triangle technologists.
Amid this almost eery stillness, I began to look back at the past year, certainly one of the oddest chapters of my life. I had spent five months in Las Vegas––way too long, any way I looked at it. Enough time in the SF Bay Area to realize I would never be able to afford it. A stranger everywhere I went, divorced from the predominant currents of American life.
I was acutely aware that in any era but my own, 2014 would have been enough. This experiment in coming halfway-out-of-the-writerly-shell to meet the imperatives of self promotion 2.0 has been shredded by the great leveler, Buzzfeed Nation. Leave your brain at the door. Content must fit one, fit all. Bouyah. A belief that talent would prevail over societal apathy left me with a distinct lack of money, a feeling of pinch.
The issue, as I see it, is that very few seem to be actively seeking out well-constructed writing. Has the quick-fire cry and response of the Internet age upset the brain chemistry of entire swathes of our population? Campus torchbearers of envelope-pushing discourse metamorphosed into hipster pablum? Those who once explored the intellectual outer limits, now wrapped in a vortex of device. Reaction to others' devices is not community, it is void.
In some ways my irascible father is right. We have succumbed. There is a definite lack of quality in music, writing, art. All the best original impulses fractured, the old rewards for honest effort vastly diminished. What is encouraged by those inclined to "break shit" seems close to Hallmark drivel (see your average Medium feed).
Perhaps this is because coding is binary, engineered systems coherent in a way that a life set down accurately on paper can never be. A beautiful mess on the page is no easy feat. And those who decide what is administered to readers through feeds, platforms, search engine bumps have decided not to pay real writers.* What we have now reads like Dilbert: square and oppressively correct. Hyper-inflated headlines, underperforming logic. Clicks, likes. All in the service of idiotic zeitgeist.
There was a time when those who defined the conversation did not bow to the whiplash velocities of twitter-framed opinion. When trolls lived strictly under bridges. Such meta-level influencers (once known as lions) are not easy to come by these days. The ability to dodge bullets and slow time, while doing the old aerial 360º, is exceedingly rare. Yet it is absolutely necessary in an environment where reputation has become a form of high-frequency trading. There are bullets to dodge from all directions.
Gaining readers and viewers is a huge double-edged sword. You get your head chopped off unless you are quick on your feet and have a thick shell to retreat into. Viva la Energizer tortuga.
Despite all this agony, I was not completely dissatisfied with the trajectory 2014 took. Sometimes clusters of events occur that convince you there is a reason for it all. The highly improbable one-two punch of a Guinness Record endurance poker tournament and securing a literary agent put me on some kind of map. New acquaintances fought their initial urge to take the piss when I spoke passionately of being a novelist. My aging father railed less often about a career at the post office being the proper setting for my minuscule intellectual capacities. External validation provided the lubricant that acres of self-belief never had.
I was free to roam, by the skin of my teeth. Endurance artist––so qualified by a willingness to live a mendicant existence (ala Henry Miller, carefree and careworn in Depression-era Paris. Entranced with the cavernous excesses of his throbbing mind). Everything connected through––what? To use a dated phrase, the collective consciousness. Not quite that. Fabric––a next gen platform that values creatives and, oh yeah, saves the earth.
And what of my muse? It has not departed. Every evening I hear the train whistle through the heart of a small, no longer time-removed Southern city. It is time to take that train south to Miami Beach. And from there––whatever means will vault me out of the static States.