Literary agent Nathan Bransford wrote a great blog today asking "Why do you think so many people are writing?" His words: "Is it the meteoric success of prominent authors hitting pay dirt? Is it the economy? Is it a cultural moment, kind of how everyone learned how to Swing dance in the 90s? Is it the Internet and computers and the new transparency of the publishing industry, where it's easy to figure out who to query and who publishes what? Is it the self-publishing boom?"
I commented on his blog, but it got me to thinking and I never like to be that blogger who leaves a gagillion comments a mile long.
Personally, I think it's a combination factors.
Meteoric success of prominent authors? Hells yeah! JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown... you see these authors strike gold and through the time-lapse magic of Hollywood it looks effortless. Suddenly there's this book that you never knew existed, even though it's been out there for a decade, and it's grossing in the multi-millions. Movie franchises, merchandise, "instant" celebrity and life outside of a cubicle? Hells yeah, I think that has some appeal to it.
Technology? Definately plays a role here. Now that everyone can blog and get followers on their Twitter accounts, I think more people have a platform to stand on. There is an audience, even if it is a few friends on Facebook. And yes, the Internet makes it easier to get behind the scenes of this once-reclusive industry that is publishing. People can see the way the machine works and it's a bit easier to understand. It's not so daunting anymore. (Although, I have to say, it's still pretty damn terrifying to send out query letters.)
Technology has also helped bring writers together into web-based critique groups, support groups (I love my #wordathon #amwriting peeps on Twitter!) and other such communities. Writers can come together and share some knowledge with one another. When you get support (emotional or otherwise) it always makes the long slog through your novel a bit easier. So, I think, more people aren't just TALKING about writing anymore, they're actually doing it.
Then there's NaNoWriMo. You may cringe or you may squee, but for what it's worth, NaNo presents a challenge to those who "have always wanted to write a novel". It gets people's butts in the chairs and gets them writing.
The economy? I think it's deeper than that. I think it's our society as a whole. Sure, our countries are going bankrupt and people are losing jobs. But how many of those people lost jobs that they just had to pay the bills. How many people get to do what they really love? Writing, for some (*raises hand*) IS that love.
All of these stars align and you get more people writing.
Books and movies have always been an escape. Can't afford books/movies? Sit down and make up your own stories. Don't like the way Hollywood treated a favorite? Write fan-fiction. Have something to say? Write a blog? Want to get out of this wayward word for a bit? Sit down and write your fantasy. Write the life you want.
There's a lot that piles on here. Things are inextricably linked... but I think what I love about this apparent boom in writing... it means people are creating again.
People are daring to imagine new worlds, new lives, new new new. Even as we get higher tech and jettison ourselves into the age of cyborgs and sci-non-fi, people are still out there with a pencil and a piece of paper. People are still telling stories.
It's one of the things that makes us human. And it's nice to see that even with the advent of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, iPhones and YouTube and MySpace... it's nice to see that people are still human.