Eyes in the Dark: Editor's Introduction
This site began as a way for me to keep my nose in the topics that interest me the most: reading and writing, education, classic literature, the creative process of other people. I had the great honor of graduating with me Master's early, and now I float around trying to find something productive to do with myself as I wait for the academic hiring season to start. I'm in the arms of wonderful patronage (i.e., I'm being propped up by my parents), I have free time, I have the resources, and I have to do something with my life other than contemplate the suburban beauty of the grassy park across the street from my house. Those were all good reasons for me to start a cutesy little personal blog where I irregularly post my musings about my favorite, disjointedly related topics - something that this site obviously is not. Halfway through building this place, it occurred to me that providing a platform for other people, people of all ages and from all over, to speak about their experiences and their perspectives was a much more interesting idea than a personal space with just me prattling on about the same ideas from my position of privilege.
All in all, I'm a very lucky person. I have family, comfort, a good education, essential work experience, my health, some money; I'm not in debt (at the moment), and I'm still young; I do what I love and I'm set to do it even more in the coming future. I'm not set to make lots of money, sure. I'm not going to be able to live in the California Bay Area for very long. Life will most likely be much harder in the next year and so. But that isn't real hardship - it's the normal way of life for people who make reading and writing their business and lives. Most of those people go through real hardships: supporting families, getting along without healthcare, taking the quick positions for the short-end money because what they love to do and what they're trained to do isn't enough to feed and shelter themselves, sacrificing their personal lives; things that affect everybody, except a select elite. But on top of all that, to have their interests and life-work devalued and degraded in public forums, to have their institutional support systems slowly dismantled, to be afterthoughts in the national consciousness - those are the kinds of troubles I read about again and again across the contributors in this first issue, the grand opening of Writing in Darkness, and I'm sure they are shared across the vast majority of readers and writers who haven't have their voices published here (yet).
We're at a critical point in the evolution of the American attitude. We recognize, now, the importance of critical language skills, not only for finding jobs but for navigating everyday life and greater society. We recognize, now, that our trust and reliance on technology and social media, and the big businesses that produce and promote these things, degrade these skills. We recognize, now, that there are very few places in a person's life where they actively practice thee skills - the one exception being in English classes, mostly because English, as a field, is primarily concerned with the study of language. We now say plenty about how these skills are important, about how education should change to better instill them, about how we need to do more to convince the general public that they are important. Yet the major tone from the writers in this issue is pessimistic. Education has failed them and continues to fail students today; individuals and institutions don't respect their work; government and business act in ways that debase their livelihoods; people in general just don't seem to care about what they do or what they have to say.
I've had a hand in encouraging this specific tone - Writing in Darkness, as a title, doesn't exactly bring to mind images of hope. Part of the reason for that is it makes for more entertaining reading. As my senior high school English teacher once said to the class, Hemingway didn't write about drunks and war for nothing. But the greater reason is that there is an abundance of passionate writers and readers who don't feel like they're being heard, that their opinions are readily discarded before they're even expressed. That's what i mean by "Darkness" - the general anonymity in which most writers operate that prevents important people from taking their ideas seriously and prevents them from building a real career.
The world is becoming a place where people can't punch-in, work, and punch-out without any fanfare or notoriety and expect to live like a human being; increasingly, to be able to do so is to be noticed, to have clout beyond immediate family and co-workers. We've been told that this is a good thing, that the movement of the economy away from manufacturing and service towards the creation and processing of information will eventually benefit everybody. That's probably true, in the long run. In the meantime, no one's making quite enough money or being noticed quite enough, and there is little productive discussion about what information we should be creating and processing when we get to that point. The people who would contribute most to that discussion - and who would be most affected by it - aren't the ones whose voices are getting elevated, anyway.
This is what I want the ultimate accomplishment of this site to be - a small light shining on people otherwise moving about in a thick mire. As negative as we are inclined to be naturally, as much as the world makes us, there is always room for optimism. I don't this to sound as though I impose on the writers the necessity of finding solutions or having a positive disposition. This is a place where writers can write about whatever they want to write about, however they want to write it, and express whichever ideas and feelings they think are important. But merely being able to express themselves on what they think is important - and, honestly, I can't think of anything that would be more important to a writer than themselves and their craft - invites room for optimism, even if a specific writer isn't interested in solutions or positivity per se. Passionate complaints are just as worth having, expressing, and listening to as academic theses, and I have tried to make this placer cover the whole spectrum between the two.
All this sounds very noble. I am not interested in puffing up myself or my venture here as something more than it is. As luck as I am, I'm interested in making money. If I don't make enough money, this project probably won't keep going. If I didn't pay the writers, they wouldn't have though twice about this enterprise - they certainly wouldn't have cared what I thought about the quality of their ideas and writing. It's easy (and righteous) to hate the way modern society forces us all to constantly think about money and marketing - they're dehumanizing and disembodying thoughts to have all the time - yet I have chosen to think about marketing this site and making money from it as part of my daily life. But I believe in the spirit of Calvin Coolidge's misunderstood speech about the man who builds a temple: the boss and the workers may not be individually, purely, motivated by anything noble, but it is their combined effort and purpose that produces something that is noble. A room of one's own needs to be paid for, after all.
Hopefully, this site - a platform for freelancers, many of who are getting professionally published for the first time, many others who don't write laminar opinion pieces as part of their central careers - will be the first step towards bigger and better things for the writers featured here. A room of one's own at least, which is all anyone needs. It's comfortable enough, and it's certainly more than what a lot of people have. Patronage makes this possible; it may not be enough to reward a room to everyone, but it will put them on the road for one, and fair compensation for fair work is all too rare nowadays. At the very least, Writing in Darkness can help the writers keep a light by their side when they're worling at night.
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