Sometimes I feel I was born in the wrong century – not in terms of technology, (I like iPhones and I’m looking forward to a car which drives itself) but professionally. I’m a man out of time.
I spent years as a print journalist and then newspapers suddenly and unexpectedly imploded into a puff of dust. When I started as a reporter, and even later as a news editor and editor, it was a reasonable profession akin to others such as teaching in its pay and prospects. These days it seems a dying trade, it’s a children’s crusade and those lured into it often end up desperate either to hang on or to get out. I’ve moved into PR now, there’s plenty of life in that thankfully!
But I also write books and that too is a profession which feels based more in the last century than in this one. There was a time when the novel was a roaring powerhouse of the creative economy. Now, not so much. It is still an important and thriving source of great works of art, wonderful books are still written. But, sad as it is to admit, the novel is not as central to the culture as it once was.
People are much more likely to take their hit of fiction these days in the form of movies or a TV box set, even video games employ a form of story telling. Writers so often are script writers, not novelists and certainly not short story writers. These days, if a book becomes famous, it is often because it has been adapted for the screen. There’s a danger this might change the way books are written, it seems to me that novels are at their best when they reflect the inner life of the characters more than when they describe the physical world.
The market has changed, the world has moved on. But I stubbornly cling to the written word – and I know I’m not alone in that. There are lots of other writers and thankfully plenty of readers, who aren’t ready to give up on fiction delivered the old-fashioned way, on the page, even if this page is often an electronic one these days. Is there a chance novels could become a thing of the past as print newspapers surely will soon be? It could happen I suppose – but not for a long while yet, there are too many people, like me, who love them.
Still it feels a quixotic business this scribbling on a paper with a pen, if not a dying art then one which is changing fast and in ways we can’t quite predict.
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‘Loved this book, a bloke’s view of the dating game, made me laugh out loud.’