There are approximately 7.5 billion people alive today -- all of them consuming, feeding, screaming, living, writhing.
For argument’s sake (and because that’s what the most recent data gives us), let’s say that those age 15 and older can be considered literate. That means every one of those 7.5 billion people, minus the ones without Internet access, minus the ones with disabilities, minus the ones with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia (though the demented still have stories to tell), has the ability to sit down at a computer and create a web page every day.
Then they publish those pages every day. They’re sent out into the ether for everyone else to see. To read. To digest. Sometimes more than once.
Every day these stories are published. By the New York Times. The Washington Post. Rag publications. Right-wing. Left-wing. Personal blogs. Career niche publications. TV blogs. Political blogs. Video game blogs. YouTube series. Dark web material.
The overload is staggering.
Apps are created just to keep up with the firehose of information, like you’re actually expected to digest it all.
The fact that you, one of those approximately 7.5 billion people, are here now, reading my words, is nothing short of remarkable to me. That's like the equivalent of finding my marooned spaceship in the vastness of the cold, black universe after years of isolation.
I am not a bestselling author. I’m nothing but me. I work four different part-time jobs from my house and don’t shower until noon most days. I used to write for hours on end, filling up floppy disks that were marked “TOP SECRET” with a silver Sharpie and placed into a hollow book so that I felt mysterious. (I know that I’m dating myself here.) All of that writing is what we now call glorified fan fiction, but still. I tried. (Dating myself further, I come from a time before "fan fiction" had an official name.)
I was recently published for the first time -- a short story about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse reimagined as children in preschool. The publication was less climactic than I thought it would be, but holding that book of short stories in my hands felt right. I’d achieved an important life milestone, something that I’d been meant to do. I knew that not many people would read it and that it would never reach any sort of bestsellers’ list, but my words were in between two physical, tangible covers, and by God, it felt good.
There’s something glorious about seeing your words in the real world, on a page, printed with ink. On the computer screen, words are almost transitory. They can go anywhere, be read by anyone. Any one of those 7.5 billion people, and that’s a beautiful thing. Like a virus, they can grow and spread. You don’t know where they will land -- Australia, Africa, New Zealand. I’ve had my blog read by people in India. But when words are trapped between two physical real-world covers, they’re yours. They are dusty and forever, spellbound and silent. You place can it on a shelf in your home and it will stay quiet, waiting to be read.
I have always wanted that.
Well, really, what I wanted was a rolling library ladder like Belle had in Beauty and the Beast, but once I moved to a new house and realized just how goddamn heavy books are to move, I started selling the superfluous ones.
… I still want the rolling ladder, though.