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Writer as Astronomer: On Discovering Black Holes

In our age of lightning-fast file transfers and instant e-mail communication, a writer can share her writing more immediately than ever before. She can enter writing contests and pitch literary agents with just a click of a mouse. Is she missing an editor’s contact information? An instantaneous Google search will reveal exactly how she can reach any person she desires.

On one hand, this ease of sharing what we write offers great hope and promise. A writer can open her inbox and dream, Think of all the people I can potentially reach today! The possibilities are endless!

She has prepared a detailed Excel spreadsheet with the names and e-mail addresses of every person she would like to charm. She sends her writing to far corners of the world, places she’s never even visited. She waits.

The writer waits so long for responses that she begins to develop new hobbies. The writer becomes an astronomer so focused on this new task Рvery different from writing Рthat she discovers a black hole: that place where writing disappears after it has been launched into the webosphere and captures the attention of no one. The black hole occasionally captures cover letters, resumes, and Craigslist apartment inquiries. Nothing can escape. Once something has been lost there, it is lost forever.

One of the biggest challenges of being a writer today is balancing enthusiasm with realistic expectations. It’s true that ambitious writers today have more resources and potential opportunities than in previous times. But they also risk feeling ignored and like their efforts are meaningless.

Today, more than ever before, a writer writes because she enjoys it. With little promise for fame or recognition, few people willing to pay money for good writing, and plenty of competition, the writer plays a constant waiting game. She wonders if she should have pursued the sciences rather than humanities. She continues to contemplate the black hole.

Awed by the black hole’s size and power, she feels inspired. The writer writes about the black hole and, in doing so, forgets about it. The best writing is born of those who write for the love of it. Perhaps the black hole is a blessing.

(Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

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