Monday, June 16, 2008

The Sandwich Generation

When I wrote the first post for this blog, I said I would deal with issues of communication and how it impacts us.

For the last few posts, I looked at changes in the publishing industry that created levels of discrimination within the writing world. Today, I return to my central theme – communication – and what all this says about who we are as writers and as people.

This is a hypothesis for sociologists to explore but I suggest that the flood of DIY and subsidy published books is a demonstration of our need to tell our stories. Sure, some people publish with the idea of becoming rich and famous, but many others just want to share their human experience. They think writing a book will get people to listen to them.

Long ago we shared our lives around the campfire, passing our wisdom and feelings from one generation to the next. That evolved into cave painting and then into writing. Letters maintained the link between families and friends and established our history.

We no longer gather around burning logs (or the dinner table) and very few of us use paper and pen to maintain contact with friends and family. If we communicate at all, it is in short, quick bursts of text boiled down to the fewest possible words and letters. DIY publishing and blogging have replaced the campfire.

I advocate all the things that we consider part of good writing: sound premise, good structure, and correct grammar. I also believe that the marketplace will deter or dissuade those writers who produce a product that is not worth buying. Once their story is told, they will not exert the effort to market it or to write another.

Peg Herring, a writer friend of mine, suggested that we are in the “sandwich generation” in more ways than one. Not only are we the caretakers of two generations, we are caught between the old publishing paradigm and the emerging new one.

As I considered her words, it occurred to me that no matter how poorly written a book or blog may be, someone made the effort to write it. Someone took the time to put words into sentences in an attempt to convey a message. When writers discriminate against other writers and try to silence their voices, if we block the road for those coming after us, we put out the campfire.

Communication is so important that the founding fathers of the United States put that freedom first on the list in the Bill of Rights. I hope that my fellow writers do all they can to nurture other writers and teach them how to do it well. It is up to us to keep the campfire burning.


Carol D. O'Dell said...

Thanks for your insightful blog. Not only am I an author, I was also a sandwich generation-er in the traditional sense as well (my mom had Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and lived with my family and me the last three years of her life).

Yes, the publishing industry has greatly changed, and especially in terms of marketing--but like the rest of my life, I have to adjust. I have to communicate.

I heard a wonderful quote, that each time someone opens a book, they whisper, "Tell me about me."

We yearn to connect. To understand ourselves by understanding others. Whenever I've felt hurt or lost--I've turned to books.

Nice to meet you.
~Carol D. O'Dell
Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir
available on Amazon

Linda Mickey said...

Carol: Thanks for stopping by. You make some excellent points. Your quote is interesting because fans have told me they like my heroine because she is like them. I have no doubt that your book has helped others and wish you every success.