It seems either I have the wrong skill set, or I was born in the wrong time.

I’m a writer. I like writing. I think I’m pretty good at it. It’s what I create; it’s what I am proud of; it’s what I have to give to the world.

Unfortunately, it seems that visual representations are becoming more and more central to the art of communication, if not its very foundation. If a picture was once worth a thousand words, its value has no doubt appreciated of late.

To be totally honest, I’m a visual appreciator myself. I love motion pictures and spend a small but dedicated amount of my time enjoying them. Great photographs catch my eye easily. I admire visual art and am often awed by the talent and ability that such creations require. Talent and ability, mind you, which I neither possess nor desire. Believe me, I know. I’ve tried.

Even in technical writing I recognize the value and importance of visual aids. I use them as much as possible (for me), especially when words just can’t accurately describe a particular procedure. But it is a challenge and without the help of gifted manipulators of SolidWorks, I’d be lost.

No, for me, what talents I possess lie either in public performance (acting, comedy, or improv) or in the manipulation of grammatical criteria to convey thoughts, concepts, and emotions (also known as writing). Whether I’m very good at it I’ll leave to your preference. Nonetheless, it’s what I do.

As with a well-composed photograph, or breathtaking cinematography, or a captivating painting, a written work, passage, or even single sentence can equally fascinate, inspire, and influence me. It can educate and instruct; it can invoke emotion, inspire action, and even change an opinion. It can be seductive and powerful. It can both arouse and deflate. It can humor and sadden. In fact, considering the visual constraints of a single-hued series of lines, curves, and dots on a contrasted background, and the effect such simplicity can potentially have on the average reader, the impact from the art of writing is a ponderous success indeed. A thousand words may fetch you a single photo, but the actions spurred by the written word have shaped and changed the face of humanity a thousand times over.

Yes, the well-crafted word surely has its rightful place in the lexicon of worthy creative endeavors. And I shall continue to pursue it.

However, I have a hang-up.

An old friend of mine and I have a fundamental disagreement. She believes that the act of “creating” is what is important, that is, the process. And I don’t entirely disagree. Process is very important. Creating, trying, exploring. After all, if we don’t “do”, we will never “have done.” However, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is it with any kind of art. Once created, in my opinion, a creation is not art unless it is eventually “beheld”. For a writer, that means being read.

So here’s a secret that you, both of you, probably already know: after a year, my readership here at WordPress is quite low. Dismally low. Embarrassingly low.  I try not to dwell on it. Often writing about public policy, disturbing social trends, and, as today, the trials of writing, I do myself no favors. I mean, to most I suppose that’s hardly captivating or even worthy of their time. But I write most of this for me. To form these thoughts and supported arguments is my way of putting them to rest. And if it is interesting enough to read, all the better.

Yes, that’s my intent. But then that hang-up rears its head every now and again and eventually I must ask myself, “What is the point of writing all of this if there are few who read it?” Or, more tawdrily, “Am I just jerking off?”

So not long ago I began searching for tips on how to increase my readership. I spent more of my writing time poking around in the blogosphere, reading other blogs, trying to see what the field looked like for others who wrote about some of the same topics as I.

What did I find? There aren’t many people who write about the same topics as I. In fact, there aren’t many people who write much at all. Most of the blogs I encountered were photography blogs. Page after page after page of blogs centered around photographs: their composition, lighting, and equipment. Occasionally a blogger would include a short one or two-sentence narrative with each photo, but the foundation of most of the blogs I came across was largely…photographs.

Even the comments seemed to mirror this fascination with images. Each photo post yielding scores of “Great photo! Love the lighting,” and similar sentiments. While I, with a year behind me and over 40 posts, have garnered less than a dozen comments in toto.

And poking around “Freshly Pressed” (WordPress’s “Front page”—a daily Editor’s Choice of blogs) I found that most of the daily selections involved a lot of images, if not being entirely about photographs.

Reading WordPress’s own “Five Ways to get Featured on Freshly Pressed” post, I found the following tip as the penultimate advice, “Include images or other visuals,” and further expounded, “…we believe most blog posts can and should have a visual element. We like them to be original images (meaning, your own)…”

Sorry but…why? And side note: SHIT!

I’m not a photographer. I’m not an illustrator. I’m not even good at visually representing information. I simply don’t think that way. I formulate an idea using words and then support and clarify it. And while WordPress has paved the way for countless photography blogs to bubble to the top of their pick list, the substance writer, the thinker, the idea-purveyor appears to have been left writing in the dirt. On top of my lack of visual thinking, I would like to see an example of an appropriate original image relevant to the current course of health coverage reform, or the use of the triple question mark, or the liberal dilemma. What photo can I take that will add to these discussions? What graphic can I draw that will not appear as the electronic equivalent of crayons on construction paper?

Maybe I’ve chosen the wrong venue. Perhaps WordPress wants their content to be more visually oriented (note the irony, however — they’re called WORDPress). I can’t deny them that right. But with Flickr and Picasa and Photobucket and 500 pixels and countless other options, do we really need another outlet for amateur photographers? Least of all using one of the few conduits through which writers can show their wares? Sandwiched between the 140 characters of twitter and the dwindling, dismal discourse of our corporate media must be at least some room for the open and civil discussion of complex social ideas by non-professional intermediaries. In this age of cyber-explosion, what is the proper venue for the crafted word from a critical mind that desperately wants an audience?

Maybe the blogosphere in general doesn’t want to be thinking about dense topics or worldwide problems. Maybe photos of other people’s travels, lists of common annoyances, or catalogs of navel lint provide the respite most blog readers require after a long day, week, or life fraught with disruptions, contortions, and obstacles that betray our peace of mind.

Maybe the value of the well-written word has simply declined. Between the investment of time in reading and concentration, and the lack of the instant gratitude that is found in an image, I can see why people prefer one over the other. Besides, as I said in my first post, pretty much anybody can read and write. And though this does not make them a good writer, the perception is that writing can be easily and universally created. Whereas the good photo or image requires an assumed and valuable talent or skill. I am living proof of that requirement (or lack thereof).

Maybe I’m just out of date. Perhaps writing persuasively has no place in this society of hate-speak and vengeful politics. Maybe we like fighting more than we like solving problems. Maybe we don’t care about language and writing anymore. Maybe we like pretty pictures more than we like reading. Maybe life is too short. Or maybe I’m just too damn boring.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Both of you.

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