Monday, March 10, 2014

Would You Write If It Meant Getting Your Head Chopped Off?

What period of history, from the invention of the printing press to yesterday, was the best time to be a writer?

This week’s question catches me unprepared, I admit. Part of me enjoys romantic fantasies about Shakespearean England, another about 1920s Paris, and let’s not forget The famous round table at the Algonquin in Manhattan.

But then I remember that 16th and early 17th century England was fond of hanging, beheading, or incinerating people who wrote something that displeased whoever the queen was at the moment, that writers have died of starvation or neglect (witness the stories enshrined in grand opera), and that books have been burned in more than one epoch including the terrible 1930s in Germany.

Today, traditional publishing is a bit of a shamble as the people who watch the health of the bottom line have triumphed over those who watch the health of the culture and society. On the other hand, e-books and self-publishing have opened the universe to exponentially more voices.

So, who’s to say? I’m hoping more erudite Minds will pick up the ball and run with it this week. I’ll learn something in the process. For now, I’m sticking with what I know – the only time I’ve been in the business – the present.



Alan Orloff said...

"A bit of a shamble." Well said, if a little understated! Nice post!

Robin Spano said...

Well-said! I'm contemplating my own answer right now...

Susan C Shea said...

Rather under-said, in fact. Honestly, I can't begin to assess this topic seriously, so it's up to the rest of the Minds to lead!

Barry Knister said...

I suppose writing about certain subjects or people in some parts of the world today could get you your head handed to you on a platter.