by Mark Antony Rossi
There are those convinced the fundamentals of writing hasn’t changed in a thousand years. An ink well, a parchment, an idea and quiet time are the essential ingredients of the literary endeavor. I don’t agree. My generation is the first to live through societal shifts in technology, economy and family structure that dramatically altered the fabric of daily life. These radical changes are so profound as to befuddle our parents whom are lost to offer good counsel. I live in a time where both parents work, computers are carried in your pocket and the average adult has already had five jobs less than ten years out of college. The stability of homesteading a job, a home, even a cell phone is nonexistent. Everything is temporary and nothing is secure. Freedom forces adaptations in artistic lives during uncertain times. If you cannot truly care you cannot truly create meaningful metaphors in a day of mechanical conformity.
This is the reason I resist the denial of social changes on writing content, style, and length. There is an impact that should be acknowledged by the establishment. But I am saddened and perplexed by many academic publications whom continue to push literary structure straight from the venue of Woodstock. I am amazed by journals endorsing vague ramblings of raconteurs heavy on academic published credits and light on anything resembling a connection with a current audience. Why should we ignore the information overload that is the Internet? Social platforms are more than communication tools. They are also call boards for opportunities and back channels for active writers. The collective sea change of the 21st century has shorted our attention spans while simultaneously lengthening our life spans. And the internalization of this upheaval is reconstituting the perceptive viewpoint to varying degrees.
I noticed it is difficult to write past 600 words for my flash fiction and creative nonfiction. I am not consciously attempting to be rebellious or trendy. In a digital age of IM, Snapchat and Twitter I internally feel the drive to be more concise. Yesterday brevity was a dirty word describing an artist seeking a short cut. Today it is par for the course. Political and marketing campaigns have influenced our thinking to accept sloganeering as critical commentary. But bumper stickers and beer taverns are the bloody last places to find solutions to problems. The modern writer stands a chance to make a difference in this volatile environment if he merely stands up for something true in his life. Because most are sitting in silence often immobilized by political correctness, moral infancy or social apathy.
I am mortified when considering this age of instant information and communication has not produced greater peace, less divorce, more sobriety. How it is possible people persist in believing the worst about each other? How can we maintain free societies in foreseeable future if we continue to abuse our freedoms, our families, and our friends? We have lost faith in Government and Religion because we recognize they cannot “give” freedom and happiness. At best these entities can only permit the conditions for a better life to exist. We are tasked with the enormous responsibility of discovering for ourselves how to live. This may be the price of Liberty but it is also the promise of Art to open launching points into creative expression and personal growth.
The connection between Government and Art figures frequently in my writings to remind the reader the potential power of practical change in writing. Bad governments historically target the artist first by closing theatres, banning songs, burning books and destroying paintings. We are targets because Art matter in the daily lives of average people. Art is the eternal archive holding the memories of millions preserved as a vital source to support culture and history and dignify the voice of the governed. The very act of committing word to paper is a solemn ceremony worthy of respect and deserving as a real starting point on how to improve the world one community at a time. Your art may save a life. It may save your life. God, guns and government have yet to fix our ailing planet. Maybe a short story on how to stop being a maggot would be a good start. You have the power. Wake up and use it.
Mark Antony Rossi is a poet, playwright and author of Question the Quiet: Selected Writings 1999-2019 (Whiskey City Press). He is the host of the literary podcast Strength To Be Human