Nov 222014

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant ConnectionThe End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book spoke to me because I struggle with the same issues as the author. I too have a harder time concentrating and have a fear of being left out of the “conversation” and therefore check Facebook and Email far too often.

His starting point is that those of us born before the early 80s are probably the last generations to know what life was like before being always connected to the internet (in the developed world anyway). The change is happening so fast and we are now living it. What are we losing? What many of us born before the 80s sense: the desire for solitude, to be left alone, un-stimulated, to dive into a good book and stay there, to fully focus on one activity for a substantial length of time, and to be fully present with one another without the constant interruption and pull of our digital devices.

The book lacks the big epiphany I was hoping for, but the prescription is that we all have to make the choice to disconnect at times and that we should not allow our technology to control us. Easy to say; harder to do.

Worth reading.

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Nov 182014

DSCN0419My friend John Arends gave me a tote bag. He got it from an event he attended in Las Vegas. Whenever I get into a discussion with writer friends over self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, ebooks vs. dead-tree books, or any of the multitude of marketing approaches, I glance at this bag. It reminds me that none of that matters until I have a story worth telling and told well. (And if you’re wondering: I do not at this time.)

 Posted by at 10:44 am
Nov 122014

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show BusinessAmusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very thought provoking book. It was written in 1985, but the concepts remain valid. The basic premise is that there is a difference between the typographic medium and the visual medium. Television largely defined the visual medium in 1985, and it still does, but now the internet has become far more influential. The rise of a visual medium has changed the way we think because the medium of communication is different. Print tends to allow us to think logically, linearly, and more slowly than a visual medium. TV, and the internet, has changed the way we consume information. It has turned information into bite-sized chunks, but in so doing has made it less comprehensive. We think solutions should be simpler, easier. We no longer tolerate nuance and complexity – things are more black and white. We see this in the political polarization of our time. Postman says that the “junk” on TV – sitcoms, vapid dramas, reality TV are not the danger, but the serious shows: news, documentaries, educational TV that shows information as entertainment. That is where the danger lies. Interesting book. Well written – not dry and dull. Recommended.

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Oct 022014

face1aAm I a “Writer” (with a capital “W”)? No, I am not.

I had business cards made up quite some time ago. They show my name, they say “Writer” and show my two blogs, an email address and a phone number. These cards embarrass me now. I would never get cards that say “Lawyer” or “Architect” – why was it OK to get ones that say “Writer” ?

There are those who say that anyone that writes is a “Writer.” That’s bull. That’s the same mindset that says everyone should get a trophy just for showing up. It’s poisonous and devalues the discipline, effort and persistence in achieving a title.  Being a “Writer” should mean something.

What does being a “Writer” mean? Do I have to have academic credentials? Do I have to be published? Does self-publishing count?

I don’t think academic credentials are necessary. There are lots of authors I call “Writers” that do not have degrees in literature or MFAs. In fact, I think the MFA mania has led many to call themselves “Writers” when they are not.

I think if you’ve been published, in paper especially, by a “real” publisher (the definition of that will have to wait for another post), you are in the club. You are a “Writer.” You’ve been through a vetting process, a process that is quite selective. Many apply; few are chosen. Most who have the courage to submit and are chosen probably deserve the title. They may order business cards.

Do those who self-publish deserve the title “Writer”? Perhaps the few who have received good reviews from established, competent critics (definitions, definitions…) and have also obtained readers will be accepted into the chosen few. But, sales alone don’t really get you the title: “Writer” (with a capital “W”).

More important than the external signs are the things we cannot see. How many writers (with a small “w”) spend hours at the keyboard, or with pen in hand? How many revise and revise until they get it perfect? How many pore over the thesaurus and dictionary to find just the perfect word? How many actually do the work of a “Writer”? Lawyers, architects – these professions have rigorous entry barriers. The practice of these professions is difficult, requiring discipline and study to keep up with the latest. There’s a difference between these professions and writing (with a small “w”).

So, I need new business cards. What should we call people like me? I’ve written a story or two that people have said they liked. I’ve had a blog post or two that people have said made an impact. But, I’ve never submitted to a publisher, put myself through the evaluation process. I don’t spend hours at the keyboard. I will dash stuff off with no revision – sometimes I barely proofread it – and put it out for the world to bask in my brilliance! What should I put on the new cards? Hack? Pretentious Wanna-Be? Blogger? Writing Hobbyist? writer (with a small “w”)? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll start using the back of the old cards for shopping lists.

Oct 012014
Getting ready to buckle down to work! I have everything I need right in front of me.

Getting ready to buckle down to work! I have everything I need right in front of me.

Haven’t you always wanted a space of your own to write? If so, go check out the space at Water Street Studios. Contact for more information. (Note: the Jack Daniels is MINE – not included with the space!)

Sep 262014

DSCN0250It’s really difficult to be the voice of doom and gloom today. The weather is perfect. Nothing hurts: hands, knees, head all feel fine. Business is good. I’m sitting in a coffee shop looking out on busy Wilson Street and nobody is doing anything stupid. People walking by stop to chat and laugh. I have absolutely no reason to whine or even be cynical. It feels odd.