Start Your Week Off Write: Don’t Write Off Change, Your Future May Depend On It


image courtesy axeldeviaje, Creative Commons

In 1977 my sister and I got one of the coolest Christmas presents we ever asked for. Atari had marketed the Pong home console system relentlessly in commercials on Saturday mornings between Shazam, Jabberjaw, Scooby Doo, Fat Albert and Schoolhouse Rock. We wanted it and in turn relentlessly badgered our parents. We squealed with excitement on Christmas morning when we ripped apart the wrapping paper to find the clunky black and white electronic box with two big knobs on it. The knobs controlled the two vertical lines representing  paddles that hit a white dot of a ball back and forth on our television screen. What a wonder! We played that game over and over until we were experts. We could beat all our friends, who of course wanted to play this exciting new sensation. My grandmother was not as enthusiastic.

“What is that contraption for?” she asked.

“Playing Pong, Grandma.”

“What’s Pong?”

“It’s like ping-pong or tennis but on the television screen.”

“Why don’t you just play regular ping-pong or tennis? Why sit in front of the T.V. all day?”

“It’s fun, Grandma.”

“Seems pretty boring to me. I’d rather trounce Uncle Roy at Pinochle.”

We coaxed her to try it, but that only lasted a minute or two.

“Don’t see what all the fuss is about. You’ll get bored with it and be back to playing outside soon enough. Kids should play outside. You don’t need electronic toys. I hope your dad didn’t waste his money.”

Change is inevitable. But sometimes we don’t like it or ‘get it’ or think it’s important. Sometimes we want to stick to ‘what we’ve always done’.

When I read that more than 40 states were now following the Common Core State Standards for English  and were eliminating the instruction of cursive writing, I had some thoughts that were shades of my grandmother: “Why should kids be typing and texting all day? Shouldn’t they know how to write in cursive? I learned cursive in school. They should know cursive writing so they can express themselves with beautiful penmanship. I hope these state education departments know what they’re doing.”

Read ABC’s report on eliminating cursive writing instruction in schools

Not teaching cursive writing in school will mean that cursive writing as a form of communication will eventually die out. How will that affect future writers’ creativity? Are we leaving a heritage behind that has been around for centuries?

There’s a lot of change in writing and publishing, all the way from the way we capture our stories to how others read the stories to how stories are disseminated.

Publishing is changing in a big way. Traditional publishing is not the only kid on the block anymore. Small presses and self-published authors can gain traction in publishing because of the way readers are reading. We can now read a book on the printed page, on a computer screen, on an electronic tablet, on our phone or on an electronic device specially made for this purpose. We can listen to it on a CD, an MP3 or a podcast. Why wouldn’t traditional publishers want to take advantage of all the avenues available to reach readers in the way they want to be reached? Kristen Lamb had an eloquent post last week asking the same question. She compared what is happening in traditional publishing with what has happened in the music and film industries.

“…maybe why Amazon is kicking so much @ss is simply because it understands that the only thing that is relevant and ever has been relevant is the reader.”

Kristen not only points out traditional publishing’s flawed thinking when it comes to change, she gives solutions that can be a win-win for publishers, writers, bookstores and readers.

Check out Kristen Lamb’s post Bracing For Impact – The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm 

How writers interact with their audience is changing. No longer will writers be able to hole up somewhere and write to their heart’s content, then send off their novel to the publisher who will do all the strong lifting of getting books to sell. Social media has changed the landscape. Publishers and readers expect writers to have a social media platform and be active in all the marketing aspects of their creations. Some agents and publishers won’t even consider a writer if they’re not substantially ‘Google-able’. Readers want to be up close and personal with their favorite authors and social media is the way to do that. Writers who are hesitant may be left in the digital dust. Nathan Bransford wondered aloud last week why literary writers seem to eschew social media:

“…doesn’t it seem like there’s some nexus between literary writers and technophobia? Are literary writers more likely to fear our coming robot overlords and proudly choose an old cell phone accordingly (if they have one at all?) Do they know something we don’t?”

Read Nathan’s entire post (and don’t miss the comments, too) Why Are So Many Literary Writers Technophobic?

Book genres are changing. It used to be a romance was a romance. Science fiction was science fiction. The hybridization of genre is a phenomenon that combines the best (or worst, depending on execution) of several genres that give publishers fits as to how to market said hybrid. The freedom inherent in self-publishing allows traditional genre lines to now be crossed. It’s a boon to readers who can enjoy a blending of different genres as well as purists who love what they love. Everyone can find a niche if they choose. DL Morrese covers this very well in his blog post On Digital Books and the Evolution of Genre:

“There are fantasy detective stories, science fiction westerns, horror romance, etc. Digital books, I think, are likely to fertilize such cross breeding and give rise to subgenres mainly because it will be less risky to explore such mutations.”

Read DL Morrese’s post On Digital Books and the Evolution of Genre

Change is inevitable. I think it’s a very interesting time to be a writer. There are all kinds of changes happening. The question is: do we run with it, run ahead of it or let it run us over? Personally I wonder why these issues seem to be all or nothing. There’s room on the block for everyone: traditional and e-publishing, publishing houses and independent presses, those who use social media and those who don’t, but I think you better have some basic knowledge about all aspects if you want to be well-rounded and not get left with the dinosaurs.

Calligraphy has become an art form and will probably be made more so by eliminating cursive writing ability among the general population. Maybe some day in the future the printing of paper books  will eventually become categorized as a folk art form, but I don’t believe that will happen for a long time. One thing is for sure. Storytelling may change methods, but it will never disappear as long as we cultivate imagination and creativity. We as writers need to be open to opportunity and innovation in order to share our voice most effectively.

My grandma survived the Depression as a single parent to amass a decent amount of wealth. She was very shrewd and loved a good game of Pinochle. Maybe she didn’t see the point in hitting around a virtual white ball, but I like to think if given the opportunity she would have been a good Halo player. 🙂

Question: Which of the changing issues listed above do you think will most impact future writers?

5 thoughts on “Start Your Week Off Write: Don’t Write Off Change, Your Future May Depend On It

  1. Love the new self-publishing revolution and the fun hybridizing genres, but Amazon isn’t really in it for the readers, rather the money, just like any vanity publisher. Even traditional publishers have jumped onto this bandwagon. Amazon can just undercut everyone’s prices because they have their very profitable online sales-for-everything-else system to make up for it. They are happy to take any manuscript, take your money, and publish it. You still have to market the heck out of your work. And they don’t offer favorable terms so real bookstores can afford to buy their titles and stay in business. My biggest concern will be how to find the good voices in this new mass of noise and how to keep real bookstores in business because some of us love the real-life experience of browsing, attending author events, and talking to real people knowledgeable about books. BTW, people already CAN buy e-books via indie bookstores. I’m watching Amazon and laughing a little because they now see the value of having a real-life store and are behaving like struggling trad publishers buying up celeb memoirs for huge dollars. Interesting world of publishing changes.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Linda. I agree Amazon is ultimately there for the money, just like any other business. I’ve heard from authors that have had both good and bad experiences. (Have no personal experience myself to compare) Joe Konrath makes a good case for Amazon in a blog post last week, but he has reason to cast them in a positive light, he’s got a sweet deal with Amazon right now. But generally I’ve heard that Amazon does offer a higher royalty percentage than the average traditional publisher, and whether you go traditional pub or self-pub, you’re still on the hook for doing basically all your own marketing. Whoever you deal with, I think keeping the rights to your creative property will be key to being able to make a decent living as a writer going forward.

      I’m with you on the issue of finding good voices in the midst of the noise. It’s hard to talk over the crowd unless you have some kind of gimmick. It would be sad if writers had to end up getting in the gimmick business to let readers find their good product. I really loved Kristen Lamb’s post with her ideas to incorporate all these new paradigms and still save the brick-and-mortar independent bookstores, which in the past has been one of the best gatekeepers between good books and just any old slapped together something.

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  2. It wasn’t until last year that I found out they weren’t teaching cursive in school. My first thought was ‘Oh, that’s too bad.’ After I thought about it, I realized that in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a big deal. Learning to touch type would be of much more value to them.
    I have friends who are very upset over the popularity of e-books, but from the moment I got my Kindle, I was hooked.
    Change is good.

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    • I agree, Diana, I love my Kindle! I’ve read more books on a consistent basis because I have it. But I’ve also come across some real stinkers that I wanted to throw against the wall. Of course, I didn’t, since they were in my Kindle. 🙂 I think I’ve gotten over my penchant for getting something for FREE. Many times you get what you pay for.

      I’m still up in the air about the cursive writing, I guess because I enjoy writing in cursive. It’s actually a relaxation for me to write in a notebook. It makes sense that school districts want to give time to those things that will make students competitive in future job markets, and keyboarding skills will be much better for that than cursive writing. However, if they are using that criteria, there’s a lot of other things they need to get rid of and several more they need to add back in if they’re going to reach those goals. But that’s a hot button topic all its own. 🙂

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