Archives For writing

Analog in an a digital age

February 4, 2014 — 1 Comment

Many of us find ourselves drawn to every new Apple product released–they’ve been coming pretty rapidly too. I blush to admit how happy I was when I got this MacBook Air to replace my five year old MacBook with the shorted power connection that made it effectively a desk top. Journalist Gordon Martin harbors no such longing for the new and the speedy. He writes his copy for Vatican Radio using a forty year old type writer, as Stuart Hughes notes at the BBC News Magazine.

In the age of social media and digital diplomacy, Gordon Martin is a resolutely analogue journalist.

“I don’t have a mobile telephone,” he tells me with a slight hint of pride. “I don’t understand a lot of modern gadgetry and I think sometimes gadgets get in the way of clear use of the English language.”

For the Holy See’s reporter in Geneva, replacing his typewriter with a laptop or an iPad would be tantamount to heresy.

After all, if it’s not broken then why fix it?

Is Martin a dinosaur or a visionary, a luddite or a prophet? In the age of Snowden, analog communication is looking significantly more secure than many of the electronic modes of communication we take for granted. As more journalists turn to Twitter and other social media for first person accounts the opportunity for news to become propaganda has increased exponentially.

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Martin’s typewriter

More intriguing still is the relationship between technology and the act of writing and of reading. At the end of the day, writing is as much a physical act as it is a mental one. The way words are formed on paper or screen affects the experience of writing. That’s why some writer compose longhand and others use a laptop. Reading is much the same. For some of us, adjusting to a Kindle screen is taking rather longer than many thought possible. Others swear by their iPad or a computer screen.

Mediating these competing claims is difficult. Personally, I find analog considerably less distracting. A paper calendar is tactile in a way that’s just not true of iCal. A paper book has a texture and a smell that can be endearing. And in the end, that has to count for something.

And if you’re interested in an artistic critique of social media, check out this performance by Paul Sharpe of UNCSA:

In ministry (or any other type of leadership) there are three horizons that must simultaneously be monitored: vision, people, and structures. Vision is the direction and purpose, communally discerned, towards which the church or organization is both pointing and traveling. People includes both those who are currently members, those who are in leadership, those who may soon be in leadership, and those who are not yet a part of the church. Structure is the organizational scaffold that unites people with vision. Structure is often one of the under-valued elements of effective leadership.

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Most pastors and church members care that the church be what God has intended it to become. Most pastors and church members love and care for one another, some even care about those who are not yet a part of the fellowship. Structure, however, can be viewed as the stepchild of leadership.

What’s true in organizational leadership is also true in self-leadership. Setting goals, by itself, is not enough to create the change you want to see in your life. Goals are good, but creating structures that support and propel you toward your goals is even better according to James Clear.

What I’m starting to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things.

So what’s the difference between a goal and a structure? A goal is the desired outcome (the destination, if you will) and the structure is the path to that outcome (the road). Clear provides some helpful examples:

What’s the difference between goals and systems?

If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.

If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.

If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Clear poses the question: could you ignore your goals and still achieve the same outcome simply by implementing new structures?

The answer is usually yes. For example, I lost sixty pounds not by dieting (per se) but exercising regularly (I started biking to work three days a week), drinking more water, and eating until I was full (and not beyond). My goal wasn’t to lose weight as much as to enjoy the experience of being on a bicycle, something I really enjoy.

I’d like to write a book, in fact I’m working on one. Slowly. On the other hand, in 2013 I wrote 163 blog posts that totaled about 98,000 words. Clear points out that the average book is 60,000-70,000 words. In other words, I could have written a book in 2013! I didn’t because I had a structure in place to write blog posts and had the accountability of being visible. I had no structure for writing my book.

Goals are important, but even more important is figuring out what system, process, or structure will enable you to achieve those goals. 

I recommend the article in it’s entirety: read it now.

 

What’s your daily routine?

December 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

I love reading biographies. It’s a virtue and a vice–one third intellectual curiosity, one third gossip, and one third comfort that there are people out there weirder than me. Anna gave me a fascinating book for Christmas, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Written by Mason Curry, the book is an anthology of vignettes about how creatives have ordered their lives for work.

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Plagiarism is a sticky business. Judging by the interactions I have with friends in higher education, the appropriation of someone else’s written work and intentionally passing it off as your own is quite common among college students. It has never been easier to lift text and insert it into you own document. I the quotes above were cut and pasted into wordpress. Simple. Ease, anonymity, and urgency create big incentives to take short cuts in research and to omit any or proper attribution.

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In his brief anthology of blog posts entitled, There are Two Marriages: A Manifesto on Marriage (2011), Tony Jones argues that the church ought to seek the strict separation of what he calls “legal marriage” and “sacramental marriage.” A result of this change would be the removal of much of the church’s resistance to same sex marriage.

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