I had a debate with a Jehovah’s Witness, recently. He had come to my door to reassure me of the scripture promising us that the meek shall inherit the Earth. When I suggested that this may have already happened–that those who were once meek may now be too powerful to recognize–the question arose as to what has happened to those who once held that power. If they are now meek, that promise of inheriting the Earth may be stuck in an infinite loop.
While the argument was successful to the extent that it sent the young man packing, it still resonates in my mind days later. It brings to mind a time when authors could only reach an audience if they first knew the magical incantation needed to attract a publisher’s attention. Most authors were, almost by definition, about as ‘meek’ as one can get. As technology has progressed, we are witnessing a democratisation of authoring: an ability to claim at least some kind of audience by simply logging into WordPress and blathering away, regardless of what some old mothballed ‘publisher’ might think.
Surely, this is something to celebrate… but is it also something to fear?
Here is the problem: many authors are no longer feeling very meek, even when we should be. Poorly researched opinions, accidental or intentional bullying, and the ability to show off thoughts to the world without even nodding toward the guidelines of grammar: these voices are now becoming so powerful that, inevitably, there must be others who are filling that void of submissiveness. So, it is worth a moment to consider the Nouveau Meek. Who are they, exactly?
Well, they certainly don’t seem to be members of the publishing industry: not yet, anyway. Success as a writer is still largely focused on impressing that group (albeit a wider range of its members.) Literary agents, who hold an author’s fate and a publisher’s ear, certainly do not seem very meek, and those writers who self-publish and actively blog–probably also to impress a publisher–also hold power. That leaves only one sector of the writing community to back-fill the quiet, unnoticed role vacated by all those others.
The Nouveau Meek is the traditional author.
Think about it: he plugs quietly away in his little studio, trying to write literature that will please an audience who might one day show him the privilege of reading his stories. He changes styles, genres and voices based on a growing cacophony of advice, but cannot keep abreast of one fickle change piling on top of another. Introspective and accommodating, the traditional author is out there still, trying to please, but because she does not broadcast to the Earth every emotion, opinion and sandwich inside her, she has been relegated to a powerless position. The author who cares what readers want truly has become meek.
Take heart, though: my visitor promised me that we will one day re-inherit the Earth.
A metacognitive afterthought: based on the content of my very first post, it seems that I, too, may be stuck in that infinite loop. I hope you all like reruns.