All of us express ourselves creatively, and many of us choose to express our creativity through one artistic form or another. Perhaps you write, or maybe you’re a musician. Perhaps the stage is where you express yourself, or maybe it is on a canvass, with a paintbrush in hand. You might be a photographer, or a film director, or maybe a dancer. For many of us, the last step in this expression is to share our creation with others. Traditionally, the only way to do so was to do it professionally: as a published writer, a signed musician, a booked actor, and so on. But the Internet has changed all that, and not necessarily for the better.
Consider the typical approach. Should you wish to become a published author, for instance, you must hone your craft, submit and (with luck) publish as much as possible, and then attract the attention of a literary agent. You start with small publications, and then work your way up. There is a process, and it is that process that ensures only the best rise to the top—that’s the theory, anyway. True or not, this has long been the only way for your work to be read by more than family and friends.
But then came the Internet, providing, in essence, a New World for aspiring writers to explore and settle. And like in the New World, the results have been mixed. For every legitimate online literary magazine, there are countless websites publishing stories that are poorly written and tiring to read.
The same can be said for other art forms as well. So called “musicians” are a dime a dozen now. Thanks in large part to the proliferation of such sites as MySpace and PureVolume, nearly everyone is in a band, or has been in a band, or at the very least knows someone in a band. And what about photographers? How many aspiring photographers will you find on Flickr or Photobucket?
But does this oversaturation devalue the art form as a whole? I believe it does. The traditional approaches of sharing artwork were problematic, but they demanded at least a marginal level of quality. Now, there is no bar to meet save for the one we set for ourselves, and, as seems to be the case, we often set the bar substantially low.
Of course, there is another question, and it is, perhaps, the more important one. Does the expression of our creativity have to meet a set standard in order for it to be a valid expression? Maybe there is value in the act itself. Maybe it is enough that, for the first time, many who’ve been without a voice have been given a means to speak and to be spoken to.
The ultimate irony here is that without the Internet, this blog wouldn’t exist. Indeed, without this medium, my thoughts would likely be no more substantial than a fart in the wind. Still, I can’t help but wonder if I’m helping or hindering each time I log on and publish a new post.
Rowing for Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.