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Can you truly be a writer with just a click?

Garrison Keillor made a point in his recent commentary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on May 29, 2010, that as the title says, "In just a click, you can become an (e-book) writer, too." (And ironically, here I'm writing through electronic media just as Keillor critically points out that anyone with an internet connection can do.)

He questions the basic loss of writing quality in exchange for quantity and how the old system of gatekeepers is on the cusp of obsolescence just as he imagines the “1982 convention of typewriter salesmen” were about to hit the wall before the tide turned in favor of the digital word processor.

Keillor’s points are well-made (and, or course in his typical quirky, floral style), however I disagree that people will settle for reading any old or new drivel that appears on their Blackberry, iPhone, or laptop.

Readers will always demand the well-told story, whether it’s fiction or journalism, because it’s entertaining, self-revelatory, and offers insight into humanity’s failures and successes. In order to achieve high quality, we still need the gatekeepers, the judges, the strainers—whatever you want to call them—whose business it is to discern the bad and merely good writing from the great writing that we want to read.

I spent an entire semester as a fiction board editor for Water~Stone Review, an annual literary magazine published by Hamline University. We read and culled through over 300 submissions to come up with the final 2-3 short stories for publication.

Believe me. After reading a couple dozen at random, you too would begin to appreciate any story with passion, a proper sense of organization, meaningful content, and an overall sense of blissful (or disturbing) discovery. To create this level of sophistication is not easy—and I don’t mean snootiness, I mean the ability to possess all these qualities and more that make a story truly memorable and in some sense, life changing for the reader.

I was a gatekeeper along with 13 other classmates for 14 weeks and by gosh, together we did a darn good and difficult job of ensuring that Water~Stone Review published memorable stories that touched readers' hearts and minds.

Sure, anyone can play the game of self-publishing in a multitude of formats, and sometimes their work rivals that of traditional publishing—but rarely is that so in the present sea of writing for instant gratification.

If you want to be a writer, to truly share your mind with others, to express yourself and influence others in meaningful ways, I dare you to play by the rules established by traditional publishing.

Practice, try, fail, practice more, try more, fail more. If you are serious, if you desire no other way to connect with people than through writing, you’ll eventually make your way to being published the “old fashioned” way and you’ll be glad for it. It will mean something far greater than your vanity press or your blog post ever could.

You may not become a writer through “the laying of hands” exactly as Keillor puts it, but you will call yourself a writer because others call you a writer, and most of all because others will read what you write and be grateful for having been changed in some small way by it.

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