Essentially, the book is a collection of essays by modern authors. They tackle various aspects of writing, addressing new authors and reader alike. The editor, Kevin Smokler, mentions how writing has evolved a lot in the time the internet has come to be a dominant force, and also how reading is still integral, despite youth reading "less" (i.e. fewer books).
Johnson points out that creation of art in this age is very different from previous ages. Art existed and each individual work had its purpose. By analyzing different pieces by the same artist, or by comparing one artist with one of his contemporaries, we can attempt to glimpse thoughts that he or she may have had while creating. The book, as a whole, mentions how in this age, the creative process becomes very transparent to the audience of a work of art. If you like one particular show, you can scour the web for blog posts by people involved, or for short behind-the-scenes clips. It's fairly easy to see the people involved in the production of something give their two cents' worth about their role. If you enjoy Battlestar Galactica (as I now do, courtesy of Darrell M. Stark), you can go online to Bear McCreary's blog and see how he went about choosing a piece of music for a particular scene.
In addition, collaboration is a big part of this. Whether it's an artist for one track, or two directors for a film, the results are always interesting. You may or may not enjoy the result, but you can not deny that the artist is affected. It really changes you to see someone else's take on something that you are working together on.
Johnson's insight is that writing, especially with regard to novels as a medium, is not something that this practice has pervaded completely. It's not that you don't have books with multiple authors, or collaborations. It's entirely different, however, to create stories on a normal basis with various people and get into the "nitty-gritty," so to speak.
It would be nice to think there was another model, though, one that could inspire a pair of young, edgy writers to walk along lonely railroad tracks, kicking rocks and running dialogue back and forth for the story they were writing. Or better yet: a husband and wife team in Nikes, debating about how to close a novel chapter as one folds laundry and the other changes a diaper.The model Johnson is referring to here is the model of "how to tell stories that matter." And, personally, I love the idea of someday perusing the subtleties of a character with my wife. That's something to shoot for, isn't it? I mean, as long as we both enjoy writing, creating together.
It's great to use the individual talents of each person, and it's also poetic that each one will try to gain ground over a point of contention when both people are adamant about the direction of a story. To me, the most influential part of it all is the way you can witness the other's creative process, so similar in time and place, but so different in direction.
Two good friends of mine are both writers, and although they both write in different ways, I'd love to see them collaborate together on a project, especially after hearing both of their ideas and perspectives on a long car ride. And also, there's something romantic about two lovers writing their hearts out, together.