One day, in one of my high school English classes, a student asked a good question. Why do the books become harder to read every year. My answer was that otherwise we would still be reading at the third grade level. Listening to a classical station, a prominent one over the Internet, that question popped into my head again. Here I am listening to what are commonly referred to as “war horses.” “The 1812 Overture,” “Finlandia,” and baroque music which, it can safely be said, all sounds the same to most listeners. A European conductor applied this idea to concert programming. People want to hear only what they’re familiar with.
This listening comfort zone notion is common to all media. Blockbuster movies use formula plots, and television series churn out scripts where only the names have been changed to protect the timid viewer. Years back in an all too short news piece, a poll was announced which showed what is most important to Americans: convenience. So much for the pioneering spirit.
We are in a quandary, at once requiring the satisfaction of a full life while rejecting the unfamiliar. Our answer has been to simply increase the usual dose rather than change the prescription. We medicate ourselves with more of the same, always looking up the road, trying to peek over the horizon. We even have a name for this process, “extreme,” as in extreme sports, extreme music, extreme video, even extreme pizza! New paths into the unknown are uncomfortable. They are fraught with new landmarks, new knowledge to assimilate, and what we dread most, changing ourselves to accommodate all this.
Blog writers are faced with this dilemma, either writing more of the same with publication nearly assured or taking a bold step into originality and with obscurity a certainty. Up the road of sameness and looming like a huge, welcoming cloud lies the mega niche of acceptance. It’s called the “How-to Cloud.” It sits like a protective umbrella shielding wannabe writers from the harmful rays of the sun, blocking the discomfort of novel thought and assuring at least the temporary six-hundred word fame of a spot in eZine. Cases in point:
· Understanding the gunk under fingernails
· Star Wars character analysis
· How to unfreeze vegetables safely
· 8 things to do with extra cat hair
· A beautiful flower pot from an old television
· Why Japanese nails bend when struck at the wrong angle
· 5 Puppy toys you can make from Swanson TV dinner trays
Why, you might ask, would anyone want to read this stuff? Well, topics like these, along with the 65th recycled version of writing inspiration comprise much of the article material found on the net. One area separate from this generic pulp is technology, by necessity current and informative. Those qualities are the coin of the tech realm. Call it a kind of frontage road along the main highway to success. As to any other subject with survival instincts, it must be dressed in a white uniform and have the words “I can help you!” printed across the chest in 120 point Arial.
The internet has been compared to the Wild West, a valid image. Virus ambushers, phishers posing as landowners, Nigerian scammers picking off stray hearts. But just as in the frontier days, it’s time for order. Since law is out of the question, the Internet being international, the change must be at the grass root level, the writing level, the new blog level. We can amble along the worn path, meekly, picking up inflated publication credits, or we can advance beyond the third grade with thoughtful and provocative articles, not much of a task considering our starting point.
Michael Carter His writing output tends toward social criticism. http://www.artistsinlet.com/wordpress/