Digital Age

ink-type-padI am an immigrant to TGIF Land.  T (Twitter) G (Google) I (Internet) F (Facebook) immigrants are those among us who grew up before everyone from toddlers on up looked at screens for entertainment and information. Like all immigrants we struggle to understand the new land, do not speak the language, depend on our children to translate, and miss the old country. When I started writing I did so on a typewriter. What I wrote was duplicated via carbon paper and delivered via the United States Postal Service.   

I know I have to either learn the language and ways of this strange new land or give up writing. Thus it came to pass that I signed up for a workshop at the recent Houston Writers Guild conference led by Jane Friedman on the topic “The Digital Age Author.”  How ironic that her presentation was postponed a half hour due to a power outage at the conference center. No power equals no power point presentation.

Anyone who started out using a typewriter does not need a workshop to learn how much the world of writing and publishing has changed. What we need are tour guides. Confusing and daunting don’t begin to describe the challenges we’ve encountered.

Once the power came back on and Friedman was able to start her power point presentation, we got a grand tour of these changes. She reminded us we’re not the first generation to have to adapt to change and that writers have always been on the leading edge of ushering in change. We no longer write on stone as our very ancient relatives did. Nor do we write on scrolls any more though I was a member of the Quill and Scroll club in high school. I never had my pigtails dunked in the ink well on a school desk, but there was a place for an ink well on my grade school desk.

The shocking part of her report was how drastically the volume of books has grown. We’ve seen a tsunami-size increase in available titles since the advent of digital-driven publishing. Now anyone with a computer and internet access can become a published author overnight.

Speed and sales potential dominate the world of written communication. Good writing is still an art form. A well crafted and written story is still a treasure to be savored and shared with others. Today competition for bookstore shelf space or internet traffic make finding professionally polished stories a bit of a treasure hunt.

None-the-less, people still write and read. With or without the internet. We are designed to communicate with one another. It’s what we do. Through language barriers, cultural differences, modes of printing and distribution, we manage to find ways to connect with one another.

That does not change. Thank God.

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