Mark Twain is often credited with having warned, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
While you might think this is an opening line to a political commentary, rest assured, I have grown weary not only of political candidates but of political analysts as well. My only question is one I believe members of every political party would also ask: “Out of 323,000,000 people, is this the best we could come up with?”
Twain’s advice could just as easily be applied to writers, and not just those whose contributions consist of tweets, texts, and cryptic emails, some now reduced to nothing more than a tiny yellow smiley face. Add to that list bloggers, a classification I am uncomfortable with but one I cannot deny, having opted to turn to the internet for my weekly musings.
My own career as a writer began quite traditionally, as a lowly sports reporter first for the weekly West Branch Times and then the daily Iowa City Press Citizen, all while still a high school English teacher. Having learned the importance of meeting deadlines and not waiting for midnight inspirations, I launched my career as a columnist, writing “Knock On Wood” each week for twenty years for several antiques publications, as well as “Antiques Across America” for ten years for Country Living magazine, “For Dealers Only” for the now defunct Antiques Dealer Magazine for several more, and “Collectors’ Counsel” for nearly fifteen years for Style 1900.
Unless I allow myself to become yet another example of Twain’s advice, all of this should make a point. Sadly, the majority of the publications for which I had previously written are either no longer being published or are but a mere shadow of what they once had been. I am as much a contributor to their demise as anyone, as I don’t subscribe to either my local weekly paper or the daily Asheville Citizen Times.
I also no longer use a phone book, the yellow pages, a dictionary, a thesaurus, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, or a set of encyclopedias, all of which were once considered essential office tools, along with carbon paper, white-out, typewriter ribbons, and file folders.
And its not that you and I no longer need the information contained within those bound pages; its just that we can now find that same information faster and easier without so much as pushing ourselves away from our desk and walking over to a bookcase.
Rest assured, I have embraced technology, although perhaps not as much as my sons’ generation. When Eric and I crawled up into our U-Haul truck last week for our 2405-mile, 36-hour journey from Salt Lake City to Statesboro, Georgia, he had just his smart phone with him. Inside my briefcase I had hidden beneath my laptop a Rand McNally Road Atlas. While he smiled when he saw it, in truth we used it as much as we did his Google maps.
I also recognize that technology has enabled me to become a better writer, for I can now correct mistakes and make twenty or more revisions of a manuscript without so much as printing out a page or picking up a pen.
Although I must confess that my love for the printed page has had unintended consequences, for I am sure I have felled more trees with my printer than I have with my chain saw.
Until next Monday,
“When you want something done, ask a busy person.
They know how to get things done.”