We can laugh at the stereotype of some 19th century writer catching his sleeves on fire as he burned the candle at both ends. But aren’t many of us doing the same thing, in a way? The array of new technologies for expressing ourselves can tempt us to burn our candles at both ends. Before you know it, the middle is gone too—emailed or twittered away before we even know we’ve hit the “send” button. But any writer who hopes to write more than one book (or live past 40) has to face the finite nature of her own energy.
The big questions facing publishing as an industry are mirrored in the questions writers make in an age of information-overload. Every writer I know struggles to sustain their practice and themselves. So, when a friend shared with me the “Slow Media Manifesto,” I loved it. It sees our era as one in which technologies are “developed and integrated politically, culturally and socially. (See www. en.slow-media.net). “Slow” here echoes “Slow Food”, as the manifesto writers explain. Slow Media, as these bloggers define it, is “not about fast consumption” but about a mindful choosing of media that maximizes concentration.
As I adapt various technologies into my practices of reading, editing, and writing, I always ask two questions now: how am I serving this technology and how is it serving me?. And I’m looking forward to reading Sherry Turkel’s new book Alone Together to help me continue thinking about this.
Though I’ve taught workshops on creating a sustainable writing process, I have to admit that sustainability is an ideal, not a practice I’ve mastered. I welcome thoughts and from other people looking for ways of reading, writing, and disseminating work that do not leave us—or the environment—depleted and exhausted. Whether we call ourselves writers, content developers, editors, or even “idea architects,” how do we make the creative complexity of our communication practices sustainable? Taking a realistic look at our total consumption of materials related to the publishing industry is surely one step. The digital realm seems to offer some solutions. But bandwidth, energy use, and all the costs that go along with building of digital archives and preservation are real issues
So, one topic I hope to engage in this blog is my own transition to using an e-readers and digital storage of books, articles, and other media. What sorts of books will I continue to buy to keep and save (and dust and schlep from house to house)? What is really best preserved, for me at least, in digital form only? And how do I arrange and store it so I can access it as I need to? Your feedback on sustainable writing is welcome; email me at firstname.lastname@example.org