Is It Possible To Make Something That Is Worthwhile Or Of-Value Too Simple Or Easy?
The following was written in reply to a question from HubPages' "Answers". First, here's the question:
"Are there things in life that we've oversimplified so much that it has taken the real value away? If so, what are some examples? For example publishing. While I love certain aspects of self-publishing (everyone can express their ideas) the downside is too much junk is out there in circulation and we no longer value true literature. Also, amazing writers are now harder to discover. This is just one example - what do you think? what other areas could this be true?"
There Really Is No Simple/Easy Reply To The Question-in-Question
What is determined to be "of value" can be so different from "thing to thing" or person to person, it can be tricky to try to come up with a general, broad, reply here.
In general (and to me), "of value" or "worthwhile" isn't ALWAYS about whether something in life is rare or not. I don't think "of value" has to be complicated and/or difficult either. in fact, and at the same time, I think that one major problem in "in the value-versus-simple/complicated" thing is that too often, people often don't understand all the ingredients and processes involved in having something be "of value" (regardless of what the thing or matter is). As a result, there can be the tendency to believe some things are simple and/or easy when they're not nearly as simple or easy as they seem to those who don't know what goes into that "of value" (or "worthwhile") thing.
That can result in things like superficiality, cheap copies, and a general matter of not holding up well, not standing tests of time, and not standing tests of scrutiny.
Something like classic literature has had the benefit of having proven
itself to stand some types of tests. Something written today (self-published or not) has not had that time. Classic literature is an example of how "rare"has played a role in "of value". In any case, "rare", by itself, certainly doesn't determine what is "of value".
There have, of course, been times throughout history when there has been more great literature, art, and/or music created during some eras. So things that have stood the test of time, in terms of value, haven't always been as rare as some times in history as they have been at other times.
In areas of science, something that has a lot of time has either held up or not. The value in something like matters of science is that what has not entirely held up may at least have been a foundation for something newer. OR, it may just be replaced with something that is more likely to hold up and be of value.
Looking at "of value" from a different angle, a cheap, run-of-the-mill, car that will get a person who needs a job to work or school may be a whole lot more valuable (and even over the long-term) than a car that would be considered as "more valuable" by a lot of people. The value in the cheap car may not be obvious according to the "usual" standards of "value", but a cheap car that gets a person to work or school, or allows a parent to get children where they need to be (maybe to the pediatrician's office, maybe to a dance class, or maybe to some activity away from a neighborhood that isn't the "most healthy" for children (or even one that doesn't offer much to kids when they're at an age when they need more than what their home, neighborhood and/or famly can provide) may offer value in ways that will long outlive a car that wouldn't generally be considered "valuable" by any number of people.
On the other hand, there is "cheap" and there is "unsafe". There isn't much value to something like a car (not matter how much "value" has been assigned to it by anyone) if "cheap" meant "unsafe", and not just "lacking in fancy stuff" or "a cheesy looking interior". Assuming the cheap (and either simple or old) car is as safe as can be expected of a car, the point is that old and/or cheap cars can, in some instances/locations, be far more common and/or simple than newer, more expensive (or even more rare) cars; the matter of "of value" depends on the car, the situation, and whoever is deciding what "of value" actually is.
When it comes to "worthwhile", it's worth noting that there's "worthwhile" as in "of value", but there can also be "worthwhile" as in "worth-your-while" (or "worth-people's-while"). That, too, often just depends on the person/people involved and/or on any number of other factors.
The ease with which people can self-publish writing these days was raised as part of the question that prompted my reply to it. I'm paraphrasing here, but I think what was generally being asked is whether a time in which "any-old-body" can publish whatever he wants to write himself; and a time in which there's so much stuff written by so many "any-old-body's", the process of publishing has become so simple and easy that it has essentially created such a giant crowd of writers that there is no prestige or "exclusive-ness" in having one's work among the masses; but also that potential readers can have a harder time finding good writing. (Of course, the other side to this particular coin is that it may not be worthwhile for a writer to self-publish material because s/he will have a harder time having his work found among those masses. )
On the one hand, there's always marketing to address the matter of being found. On the other hand, as a potential reader of material that can be found online, I have to be honest in saying that I don't go near any material if I know up-front that it has been self-published.
It's worth mentioning that I don't look for fiction or poetry at all these days (no time for either), so I suppose, maybe, people who have the time to read fiction and/or poetry may be more likely to take their chances with reading/buying self-published material. This isn't to knock fiction or poetry. It's just that once I had a family I had to set aside reading anything that didn't some "educational" and/or professional purpose for me and/or my children. It was a miracle enough that I could make time for living my life and also reading. I'd done more than my share of reading creative writing before I had children. Maybe on day I'll have time to re-introduce it into my reading. Although my children have been grown for some time now, I still have other things that take up my limited reading time.
In any case, I tend to think that with creative writing, the cream does tend to rise to the top (but, of course, some marketing helps).
With non-fiction writing that is self-published (and there's a whole world of non-fiction writing of different kinds), I want to know more about who wrote something. Depending on what they've written and how they're presenting it, if I think they probably have something worthwhile to offer; I may be willing to spend the three dollars to read the thing.
If there's something "wherever self-published stuff is available" I want to know who the author is, how he's presenting the material, why he thinks he has something to offer, and why he thinks his material can stand up against more traditional publishing (for example, reference books of any given field).
I'm not interested in self-published/"simple-to-publish" non-fiction that is written by someone who writes "as a writer who has researched" (unless that writer has put together something that is so comprehensive and thorough that finding all the material it offers in one piece of writing would be unlikely).
Of course, there is "anyone-can-publish" material on a site like HubPages, where people can read for free. Then there is "anyone-can-publish" material on sites where potential readers must buy the material.
Whether it's an "anyone-can-publish" situation like HubPages or one that involves people's buying the material (even if only for a dollar or two sometimes), I don't happen to think that making publishing more simple and easy means that writing is not worth the writer's or reader's time. And, I don't happen to think that there can't be anything of "value" found where anyone (and his brother - let's not forget people's brothers, sisters, cousins cats, and cartoon-profile pictures) can publish.
I do think that writers who publish their own stuff owe potential readers more about who/what they are (and why they think they have something at least a little worthwhile to offer). Also, I think, for the most part, writers owe potential readers more information than a re-hash of the same information that readers can find from more well established sources/authors.
Well, lt me put that another way: I think if writers who publish their own stuff hope and/or expect to survive where stuff that "any-old-body" (and his brother, etc. etc.) publishes; they need to do more than just make up a pen-name and "profile story", and then post a bunch of links to social media sites. To me, this goes back to the thing about "cheap copies" and "superficial", but also to not understanding what goes into producing/finding something worthwhile (maybe even valuable) and, as a result, not understanding why one type of material or another seems to have sunk, or be sinking, rather than swimming.
Things are worthwhile/valuable to different people (whether producers of the material or consumers of it) for different reasons. Publishing has indeed been made simple. As a result, the world (particularly the Internet world) continues to try to sort out what is worthwhile/valuable from what isn't (not to mention what is worthwhile/valuable to some people but not to others).
Rome, as they say, was not built in a day. Of course, I'd be remiss not to mention that most of us have heard all those references to the fall of the Roman Empire. That's only a kind of background point here.
As I said, I don't think there is a simple answer to the question about whether making things simple affects what is "valuable" (or "worthwhile" or "worthwhile-for-some-people") Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes it's as good as it's ever going to get. Then, too, sometimes simple seems more simple than it really is, or ever really can be. On the other hand, so many things in life that are not so simple are just a matter of breaking down what is difficult or complicated into what is simple.
When all is said and done, what is of "value" or "worthwhile" is so often in the eye, heart, or mind of the beholder. Then again, there are some things of "value" or that are "worthwhile" that have been (as far as I can tell) the same since the proverbial beginning of time, and that will never change, no matter how simple, complicated, challenging, or anything else we (or someone else) makes them.