Monday, February 24, 2014


‘Let the market provide,’ is the predictable answer—and that works up to a point. Then you run into the depressing fact that if everything is monetized, there is a disconcerting tendency to get the lowest common denominator. Commercial TV? Commercial radio? Much of our media? Fast food? All too many movies?
Somehow, commercialization has a tendency to crush content—how much alliteration can you take?—conclusively, completely, and consequentially. 

I’m tempted to add ‘crassly.’

Why should this be? Is it capitalism per se—or the American Business Model? I don’t have a quick answer to that.

And then Amtrak appears and exhibits the right stuff. Amtrak? Say it isn’t so—but it is. It offers a de-facto Writer’s Residency on trains. Let me quote from the invaluable This is from a short piece by Diana Dilworth (a must-read lady).

Writers residencies just got mobile. Amtrak is now offering free rides to writers on long rides so that they can get some writing done.

The idea came from a Twitter. Inspired by an interview that discussed writing on trains, writers Zach Seward and Jessica Gross tweeted their desires for a writers in residency program on Amtrak. Amtrak responded to the tweet and offered Gross the chance to test drive the idea. She took a ride from New York to Chicago and back. The Wire has the story:

She rode the rails from NYC to Chicago to NYC again, writing the whole time. No one else on the train knew about her residency, Gross said, or if they did, they “definitely didn’t act like it.” Now, perhaps the most important point: The residency was free. According to Gross, all Amtrak asked was that she send out a few tweets while she was traveling, and do an interview for the company’s blog at the end of her trip.

Long may it last. But, you know, we’re really just tinkering at the edges with this kind of stuff. Creativity is a powerhouse of good things—and it deserves much wider support.

But here is the thing about the creative community: Most of us are out of work—or otherwise penniless—for most of the time. So does that bring out the best in us?

Here, I am much influenced by reports that over 90 percent of actors are out of work at any one time. I have no idea of the figures relating to writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, or poets—but I doubt they are significantly different.

And yet, at the end of a long hard day—often doing something we would prefer not to have to do—we crave the release that comes from TV, or a good book, or something similar. In short, in so many ways, we live for the stimulus of the creative arts.

Worth thinking about?

I’m scarcely impartial—but I think so.



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