I am not a handy or a crafty person, I have no typesetting or graphic design skills, and yet I am suddenly consumed by the desire to learn how to do these things. Why now? Am I suddenly discovering a sleeper DIY strain in my personality? What’s next? Growing my own vegetables? Buying a goat? Becoming a vehement advocate for chickens in the city?
Heavens, no! What happened is I was recently made painfully aware of just how dependent I am, as a writer, on other people to turn my words into a visually appealing product that engages an audience —see above missing skills. This past spring, the two employees who ran the media department at my little college were let go. I could crank out copy for all I was worth, and there was nobody to turn that copy into attractive, readable documents, nobody to update information on the web site, design flyers, brochures, etc. On my own, I could type up Word documents in Times New Roman, maybe tinker with the margins. Sexy.
Writers often operate in isolation, and with a sense of relative autonomy —we’ve got lower overhead than any other discipline, a portable craft that requires only paper and a pen. (Or, more realistically, a cheap laptop and access to a printer.) I think the ease of transmitting information has, in some ways, strengthened the illusion that we can go it alone, when in fact we still rely on so many people to make our work accessible to readers. (Three cheers for all of the developers, designers, and contributors at WordPress!)
I’m feeling a little uncomfortable about being so reliant on other people. I think I am going to make some book objects to satisfy my newfound need for independence.
Hmm. Maybe there is a streak of the “seize the means” revolutionary in my DNA after all?