Sunday, January 04, 2015

Six Momentous Digital Developments, 5 Ways I (Attempt to) Cope... and "The Money Tree"

As a writer, six of the most momentous things that have happened for me in recent years are all digital:

(1) Websites (with my dad's help,, launched in 1998); 
(2) Blogs (ye olde Madam Mayo first appeared thanks to in March 2006); 
(3) Podcasts (I started making podcasts in 2009, using GarageBand to edit the audio files and as my hosting platform which, total yeehaw, sends feed to iTunes); 
(4) YouTube and Apple's iMovie software (check out my videos here and a book trailer);
(5) Ebooks (my ebooks are all listed here and a blog post about how I made some of them is here).
(6) Print-on-demand publishing (FAQs answered here).

But then the digital tsunami crashed upon us all, and like most writers (and most readers), after adding Facebook and Twitter and Skype and etc etc to the churning morass of email, I struggle to keep my nose above the waterline. 

I also despair in how often I share a lunch or dinner table with individuals who dodge out of the conversation to take calls, scroll through their email, text, show photos of their latest vacation trophy photos and/or urgently google whatever term / name / place that pops into their head. I don't have kids but if I did, at dinnertime, I would oblige them to deposit their thingies in a basket outside the door. Else crack ye olde buggy whip over their heads, I guess. Many adults, alas, set an atrocious example. Politicians are the worst (yes, I know some). Don't get me started.

Five ways I cope (which may not work for everyone, but they do for me, so maybe also for some of you):
(1) I don't use a cell phone except when traveling (I tell everyone who asks for my cell #, twist my arm and I'll give you the number but I never check my voice mail, so it's much better send me an email-- that I answer).
(2) I do not text (really, I don't).
(3) For organizing my schedule, shopping lists and tasks, I use a Filofax personal organizer and the GTD system. I wrote a piece about the Filofax for Kevin Kelley's Cool Tools blog a while ago, arguing that, though it's a paper-based system, it can be a powerful tool to not only organize one's life but also to help loosen the digital leash. Seems that carefully made point about loosening the digital leash just sailed, weeee, over most commenters' heads. Oh well!
(4) I rely on my writing assistants to distract me from anything digital (watch them in action in this 14 second video).
(5) For lunch, coffee breaks, dinners when alone or with others who may feel compelled to take phone calls and/or thumb-twiddle under the tablecloth, I keep a paperback handy. Right now it's The Indians of Texas by W.W. Newcomb, Jr. I'm up to page 103, "The Lipan Apaches: Conquerors Dispossessed."

I cannot say I have arrived at Total Zen in the Digital Department, but at least I've managed to conserve enough old-fashioned awareness that I am confident I would have noticed the Money Tree! Watch this short video by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, which is sort of sadly hilarious.

Screenshot (partial) from
Amy Krouse Rosenthal's "The Money Tree"

Bottom line: Digital tools are like chainsaws, rip-roaring powerful, but dangerous-- the amputation just might be a limb of your own life. 

Glad to have digital tools. But sometimes I am massively relieved not have them. What will the next years bring? I dread-thrill to wonder.

Your COMMENTS are always welcome.