Making a case for optimism
I’m an optimist. Chronically so; some would say to a fault. My optimism has kept me holding on to various situations in circumstances where others would (and have) let go. But it’s also exposed me to the notion that there are no such things as limits and that truth is that upon which we all agree. To go even further, my optimism has led me to the conclusion that, when the “truth” stops adding up, when what we “know” becomes obsolete, we can get together as communities and agree upon new truths, set new rules, discover new things to know.
I find myself in the bizarre position of being an employed writer at a time when newspapers and magazines are either chopping up budgets or closing up shop. I’m well aware my status as gainfully employed could change at any moment. My optimism doesn’t blind me to reality, after all; it just keeps me from stressing out to the extent I otherwise might.
After studying music for most of my life, I’ve learned some songs thrive when they’re amplified. Those use their own noise to cut through the madness of the world. They assert themselves by maintaining their meaning even when you’re doing other things. Others only make sense in quiet moments, when you have to literally stop what you’re doing and listen. Both can be equally as powerful when employed in the right context, when delivered artfully.
The analogy has entered my mind countless times over the past year, as I’ve witnessed and participated in a number of attempts to translate print media to the web. I can’t help but think print is the song you have to stop what you’re doing to hear. While the internet is about connecting, sitting down with a magazine or newspaper (or, for that matter, a book) requires a certain amount of shutting out the world. It’s a separation, a moment for reflection – the same can be said for the act of writing on paper. There is power in silence, it’s important to detach and reflect.
On this site, in conversations with friends, meetings with editors, and discussions with peers, I keep hearing the choruses of concern. All around me, I hear people wondering what’s next. Where can we possibly go when the business models with which we’ve become so familiar stop working? How do we adjust without losing our integrity (and our income)?
Call me crazy but, in my mind, all of this translates to a rare moment of collective opportunity. As a storyteller, I know the best way to tell a story is to fill an empty page. As a songwriter, I work against the silence. The open-ended question strikes me as an invitation to possibility. As I stand in the middle of my industry – the one that exists where music and media converge – watching rules and establishments fall down around me, the question “What’s next?” strikes me as a provocative challenge. In fact, I feel like answering that right now may be futile because here we are doing what’s next. Time will answer that question. Meanwhile, this is the song we get to write together.