I Spent Zero Time Editing This.

At various points, I’ve fancied myself a bit of a writer. Really, just a whim, a passing interest that occasionally loops around again – more the way a curiosity catches one’s attention every so often, more than any real interest. Perhaps a means to an end when the spirit moves me to communicate an idea or information more than any particular interest. I don’t even know what the point of this post is.

I deal in quantity, volume. I’m a purveyor of words. Words are tools. My main goal is getting the idea out, push it to words, organize it in some manner, shape or form, get it done, move along. I’ll sometimes have a draft sit for a bit, but its a rarity that it ever sees the light of day.  Just to show my commitment to the process, I’ll sometimes even go back and re-read a post once – perhaps even twice – after I’ve posted it. Sometimes. Generally speaking once it’s fully out of my head, I hit “Publish…” and away we go, usually not to revisit it again.

Then there are people like my friend David.  He’s considered, often poetic. He says what he means, deliberates over every comma, every phrase. Endlessly revises. Words are beautiful and exquisite materials with which to build stories.  By the time he pushes that friendly blue “Publish…” button, his work is as exacting as one would expect of a trained writer – one who doesn’t just fancy himself a writer, but one who is actually a writer, an expert wordsmith. Because, well, because he is a trained writer. He gives the impression of a person who not only speaks in well-thought out paragraphs, but thinks in paragraphs. The difference between my work and his is the difference between a framing carpenter and a finish carpenter.

In light of my previous post, I’d like to be clear that I’m not complimenting him at my own expense. His blog is something different from this one, his style is different from mine, his purpose is vastly different. I use words to communicate some ideas; he uses words to tell stories and paint pictures. He paints a picture of his father; I talk about the lessons my dad taught me. Just really different vibes. I read or listen to (audio books are ahh-maaaay-zing things) no less than 30 books a year, but since I left high school, I can count on one hand the number of novels I’ve read; I’m willing to bet his ratio is more a reciprocal of that than not.

It’s a good thing there are more than 300,000 books published every year in the United States – something for everyone.  By the time I press that friendly blue “Publish…” button on this post, the number of blog posts published today will be more than 2.7-Million and counting. A good number are rubbish, but I have to believe a plurality are posted by well-meaning folks with solid things to say. I also have to believe most are purveyors in words – more like me than like David. “Just get it out.” There are the hucksters, building blogs to convey topics and information designed to get you to subscribe so they can make money, unlike either this one or “willwriteforfood,” but I’m also quite sure most of the people who press that friendly blue button are legitimately seeking to express themselves.

Here’s what I’ve come to find: the people who stick with it, the folks who keep coming back – no matter the interval in which they come back – to bang on their keyboard and hit that friendly blue button are the people that actually have things to say, like another friend of mine. Some ten years and 2000 posts later, he still cranks it out.

There is just so many options out there, that if you’re pushing these things out for a reason other than the sheer enjoyment of writing, the need to read your thoughts written out, the desire to convey thoughts, you’re just setting yourself up and wasting your time. The odds of making money on a blog are remote. You’re not going to get famous. Not even for a minute. Just do what you do without expectation. You’ll be happier for it. If its not a labor of love, then you’re just wasting your and (perhaps more importantly) your readers’ time.

This fulfills my need for a place to dump my thoughts and words; for David his blog fulfills a need to paint pictures with his words.   Thanks for being here and indulging my words. There are millions of other posts dated just today to which you could give your attention and a fraction of those 300,000 books published yearly you could tackle. I don’t know why you’re reading this, only that you are, and I appreciate that. If you’re an aspiring writer, perhaps you’ve got some inspiration. If you’re someone who just surfs blogs, fantastic. I hope you come back. There are so many options and choices and directions to go that I hope I’ve provided something of what you came here to find.

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Writing for the College Newspaper: 1992 Edition

About 20-years ago, my last op/ed article – “The Columnist Manifesto” – ran in my college newspaper. Besides the fact that I can’t quite believe it was that long ago, what really astounds me is just how much the acts of writing and publishing has changed. Consider the way the process looked back in the early-1990’s.

Now to be sure, this was by no means the stone age. I spent exactly no time chiseling my pictograms onto stone tablets, nor did I have to sharpen my own quills and mill my own paper. I used a Brother WP-1400 word processing typewriter, for which I paid the astronomical sum of $400. The Dell notebook computer on which I am writing this article, cost just slightly north of that. I saved my columns on 3.5″ floppy disks, probably the most state of the art media of the day. The only thing was that the Brother used proprietary formatting, so one could only use the data on it in other Brother word processors. I will say that I was fortunate to have had that machine: besides being somewhat of a novelty to the others on my floor, it absolutely revolutionized how I thought about my writing tasks.

It had a small LCD screen where I could review my work, spell check, and edit before taking to actually printing it out. Printing consisted of the type-wheel whirring and clicking away. To someone who may not have known I had a fully automated typewriter, they would have heard typing going on at some 80-flawless words a minute.

I would then walk my type-written manuscript across campus to the newspaper office, where the paper had retained the services of a retiree to transcribe the work of the papers’ authors onto a Macintosh Classic computer. Quite impressive, really. The paper had 4-of these $1000 machines, although I’m pretty sure they were shared with some other campus club. Those machines had 9″ monochrome CRT displays ‘” not much better than the screen on my Brother although I’m pretty sure the processing speed of my Brother was probably better.

The paper’s clerk would then spend hours “processing” the writing contributions for the week, whereupon the editors would lay the paper out manually, and then send the paper off to the printers.

Consider the amount of work and time that went into that process. My simple article was written, printed, re-typed, printed, and manually laid out. Today, that article would be saved to “the cloud” somewhere or at the least emailed, where it would be received, imported into Quark or some other desktop publishing application, and emailed to a printer; that is if I didn’t just publish it to a blog while I was sitting in Starbucks using their WiFi.

I was so conscientious about saving my work, and yet I was saving it to these proprietary disks that were worthless absent the Brother machine; today it would be saved to GoogleDocs, to my hard drive, and my “sent items.” Our retiree clerk would simply have nothing to do, as would the majority of the editors.

At the time, I’m sure the whole process was hi-tech. Today, it seems like it could be a scene from “Mad Men” or from the 1950’s ‘Daily Planet’ newsroom. I may as well have been sharpening quills, in comparison to what can be accomplished today.