By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.
The fact that you’re reading this column says that you are interested in content. I was thinking the other day about the past, long before modern communications technology (radio, television, cable TV, movies) arrived on the scene. Before these modern ways of consuming content, many folks would read books to “help fill the time.”
When you watch any stakeout on a police program, you may be struck by how many hours the cops will just sit there waiting for someone to show up or leave or be observed doing whatever the police are hopeful they’ll see. It has always driven me crazy to think about how boring it must be to just sit there staring at absolutely nothing.
There is a great scene in the Seinfeld TV show in which Elaine and her boyfriend, Puddy, are flying back from Europe. They are sitting there and Elaine noticed Puddy just sitting and staring at the back of the seat in front of him. She first asked if he would like something to read. He answered, “No.” Elaine then became very agitated that he just sat there. She then asked him, "Are you just going to sit there staring at the back of the seat in front of you?” He simply answered, “Yes.” Elaine then stated, “That’s it, I’m breaking up with you.”
The very idea that her boyfriend is so devoid of intellectual interest is simply unacceptable to her. I admit I even have a fear of having absolutely nothing to do. Just sitting there. At my health club, they have cable TV on each cardio machine. That way you don’t have to sit staring into space as you spend 30 minutes exercising.
I also have found that even at a long traffic light, I may reach for my cell phone and search for something on the Internet – simply so I can read something while I’m waiting. What this says about us is that we are simply expected to be occupied doing something at all times.
That brings me to the point of this column. As we have become surrounded by 24 x 7 connectivity, we have become “slaves” to consuming content. (God forbid we simply sit there and reflect with deep thoughts about the matters of our lives or the world.)
Now creating original content is not all that easy. When one writes, one typically draws on our life experiences. Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, one has to be stimulated by thoughts we originate in our minds. This is difficult to do.
I think of very successful writers. (I am a fan of mystery novels.) So James Patterson comes to mind. He has a net worth of a staggering $560 million.
I also think immediately of John Grisham. His net worth is about $220 million. Why is that? I argue it is because we like to consume interesting or entertaining content. Clearly these two writers have their own formula for writing fiction that has a huge following.
There is also Mary Higgins Clark's net worth of about $110 million. But the net worth of most authors is a small fraction of this. The world is awash in written content.
As the film and TV shows created in our country have a world wide following, it should be no surprise that film producers such as Steven Spielberg top out the list. His net worth is about $3.8 billion. Why? Simply because he has a knack of creating films with very interesting content.
Larry David, the creator of the Seinfeld TV series, has a net worth of $800 million, more than Jerry Seinfeld himself, the star of the show. Why? Because it was David that wrote the “content” of the show. Without interesting content, all you have are words.
In fact, there are so many relatively untalented writers out there (most of whom don’t make a living by writing) that the Internet is awash with companies that will “publish a book for you.” This so called “self-publishing” is a racket. The author has to pay significant monies to these companies for production, marketing and distribution, simply for the “ego satisfaction” of seeing themselves in print.
Another form of “content” about which most of us don’t think often about is computer programming. If one writes a useful program and retains the intellectual rights to it, you can become a very rich person in a short amount of time. Angie Hicks (of Angie’s list fame) is worth a cool $50 million.
So my final thoughts (or advice) to all of you consumers of content, is what is said about writers: “A writer writes – always.” Said, among others, by Billy Crystal in the movie: “Throw momma from the train.”
Hopefully, you writers out there will find your “voice” and get sharper and more entertaining as you write more and more.