What do we need to write on?
The question is not new. But the context is.
Since the time I had started working as a print journalist, the above mentioned question has returned frequently in various forms. Whether it was an editorial meeting or the regular anxiety to fill up the extra space in the daily newspaper, the question always ruled the centre space. Something important should be written about. But what is important enough to be supposedly written on? Is there any determining factor of this ‘suppose’ question?
Now that I have turned myself into an instructor for adult students, the same question comes back with a sort of widened perspective. Why do I claim that my point of view is comparatively wide now, will be addressed in the due course. To begin the discussion, let’s go back to the dilemma, in the form that it used to be. Of course, whether to call it a dilemma at all or not, is in itself a question. It is in no sense less significant and disturbing than the one that is being primarily addressed.
As per my experience with the publishing industry, at times it was considered that the mind of the writer should be a determining factor as far as the topic of a write up is concerned. But in most of the cases it was reconsidered from another perspective. Which we preferred to name as the ‘readers’ perspective’. The writer will be expected to create some content that the reader will supposedly prefer to shed a certain amount of money for. In short, one has to write on something that will ‘sell’. Now what sort of content will be considered worth the pocket pinch? Precisely, it will be anything that the readers will enjoy reading. But who knows the readers’ mind? Can the readers themselves shed any light on it? Finally here comes the sociological abilities of the writer. A successful writer writes on something that the target readership wants and precisely s/he understands by studying the society. But is there actually a dependable scale for the ability of such a study available anywhere? The answer in itself can give birth to a newer dilemma.
Now, when I walk into a Creative Writing class, there are many inquisitive eyes waiting for me to tell them a topic to develop their thoughts on. They are more than interested to create their own content, but not the keywords of those contents. Why is it so? There is a basic human training on the gravity of a topic of discussion. What do you choose to talk about, apparently makes an outward sketch of your hidden abilities. Generally in such occasions, when I have grown to be an instructor from a journalist, I would guide the students to search for a subject that they would feel like discussing for long. It’s not that the journalist, I used to be, didn’t realize this before, but there are restrictions of a particular trade. A journalist has to sell her story, where as a teacher sells her experience along with the ability to write the story. The experience that this teacher prefers to share with the students is that to write a readable content, one has to know what is considered to be the necessity of the reader. ‘Necessity’ in this case is not necessarily to be restricted to signify the ‘demand’ of the readers. Rather the content creator will also take the advantage of knowing what is lacking from a target group’s expectations, to give them something new.
In a time as such, when we all operate from quarantined spaces, how do you gauge the reader’s perspective? How will a writer know what will sell and what will not? Will any piece of writing be bought at all in a time when there is not enough money for food and basic necessities in the hand of a growing section of the society? In fact, the crisis has already started. A portion of so called ‘good’ content is lying unsold, which has raised the eyebrows of some media tycoons of this time. Why did it happen? Were these contents not well researched or neatly crafted? Or is it that the ‘sell’ factor has vanished in the times of social distancing?
The so called ‘sudden-ness’ of the overall situation has transformed a lot of things. There are many things that used to sell at random are locked down at the moment. We are being taught to isolate ourselves from many things that we ought to demand. It’s gradually seeping into the system of the society that all you want is not that you can/should buy. In such a time what does the writer do? Does s/he depend on the sociological survey done in a pre-quarantined time to create something for the ‘self-isolated’ soul? Or does the writer take the path of creating something that s/he just feels like. After all this is not even a time when someone can get prepared to present something to the society that it had never asked for. Who knows what is being asked for? Is the virtual social network really good enough to give people the idea of the real changes happening within the minds and bodies of every social being? How it is possible to measure what is not expected? Are the walls of the virtual society dependable at all? Will the author ever be able to trust it in order to create a real work? Will it not agonize the dynamics of analyzing the preference of the ‘target’ more?
Shouldn’t this unbearable agony of the state of inability to measure the expectations of the people around, too, be termed as ‘social distancing’ in itself?
Suchandra Ghatak, Assistant Professor, Unitedworld School of Liberal Arts and Mass Communication (USLM)
Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.