Writers Journey: Sensationalism...

Sensationalism is a modern American phenomenon these days.  We should take care to notice that goals of any positive value are worthy of respect and admiration.  This is not just a warning for writers, but for anyone with a career goal.  If a student wishes to graduate from college and enter a career as a teacher’s assistant, earning an income of thirty thousand to fifty thousand a year, this is a worthy goal.  So long as that student keeps their expenses in under their wage, this person can be said to have attained success.  They earn more than they spend, and they provide a service to humanity. However, one will often encounter mental hiccups in their most basic endeavors because of an obsession with sensationalism in America today.  If you are not a Forbes CEO, or a national best-selling author, you may encounter many blank stares among family and friends, and even your college faculty.  I recently sat through an unfortunate session at a local college where students were encouraged to earn a hundred thousand a year, find two houses, have three cars, and this was considered ‘making it.’  And I realized that this ideal is extremely sensationalized let alone economically and environmentally unsustainable.  Two houses.  Three cars.  Everyone should have it.  So the theory goes . . . Nowhere does this apply more than to the working artist.  A writer is automatically successful because they finish a final draft.  That’s it.  That draft may never see publication, but the success is still there.  Looking at history, this is how now-famous writers like Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters were initially successful.  They wrote stories for their families, for each other, and those stories were taken by their families to publishing houses which accepted...

Rally ‘Round the Piano! Jul15

Rally ‘Round the Piano!...

It’s one of those indelible old-timey images. There’s the family in the parlor, or the hall, or in the living room, gathered around the family upright piano. One of them, usually the mother, is sitting and playing. One of the family members might have a fiddle playing along. And everyone else is singing along, smiling broadly. Granted it may be an exaggeration of the “good old days”, but in the time before TV and radio and even phonographs there was a tendency for at least one family member to be an amateur musician. If they were wealthy, they might have a grand piano and all the children would be required to take lessons. As the social status dropped, the instruments would become more compact and cheaper; violins, guitars, banjos, ukuleles. If the group were large enough, you may get some brass players and woodwind players. And of course, everyone could sing, frequently in harmony, at least a little bit; even if it were just songs from the church hymnal. In the days before mp3 players, and CD players, and cassette players, and on and on, if a family wanted music in their house they typically had to supply it themselves. The wealthy paid for their children to be taught music. The poor would sit their kids down and teach them what they knew. But come what may, music was part of everyone’s life even if it wasn’t being pumped straight down their ear canals with a pair of iPod earbuds. It’s tempting to go into rant-mode on topics like this, and ascribe the decline of musicianship among the masses to laziness. I don’t know that that is a fair assessment. First there’s the immense amount of things that a person or family can do...