The Tale of John the Accountant

A note to the readers:
This fairy tale was originally written for a Creative Writing class at Rowan University in 2001.  It sat on my hard drive for the last eleven years, mostly forgotten.  I transferred it from one computer to another, along with all of my other work.  After more than a decade, I decided to dust it off and give it a fresh revision.  Enjoy.

The Tale of John the Accountant

 

Once upon a time, there was a man.  He was a perfectly normal, boring, ordinary man, who had nothing particularly special about him.  He lived a normal, boring life, in a normal, boring town, nestled away in a perfectly normal, boring little part of the world.  And nothing interesting ever happened in his life.

Until one day, he became a Prince.  Then his life was grand, filled with beautiful ladies, illustrious balls, and all the fun and excitement one man could ask for.  From that day forward, life truly was great.

The End

 

Hmm?  What’s that?  You want to hear more?  Oh, well I suppose we’ve got time to tell the whole story.  If you’d like to hear it?  Are you sure?  It is a rather boring little tale.  Nothing exciting or adventurous happens in it.  You’re still here?  Very well then.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Sit back, relax, and let me tell you the tale about an ordinary man who became an extraordinary prince.

It all started, as I said, in a perfectly ordinary, perfectly normal, perfectly boring little town called Wellington.  And in this town lived a perfectly ordinary, perfectly normal, perfectly boring man named John.  See, even his name is ordinary.  It couldn’t even be a more exotic spelling of the name, like Jon or Juan.  No, just John.  And John had the most boring and ordinary job you could possibly imagine.  He was an accountant.  Now, this was back in a time when accountancy was an even more boring job than it is today.  Today we have complicated Income Tax, deductibles, audits, and the IRS.  There are tax loopholes and reforms and economic stimulus packages.  But back in Wellington, centuries ago, there was a simple, easy way of handling taxes.  Everyone paid the same amount, ten shillings per month, and if you failed to pay you were sent to prison.  No complicated deductibles, no late-payment fees, and no exceptions to the rules.  Needless to say, everyone made sure to pay their taxes every month.

Because of his job as the town’s accountant, John could have become a very unpopular person.  People don’t tend to like the man who takes their money or throws them in jail if they don’t pay.  Not that John himself would ever throw someone in jail; no, he simply filled out a form and sent it to the town sheriff, who then had a far more interesting job to do.  Yet John could still have been hated for filling out the forms that let the sheriff arrest people, except that being hated and shunned by townsfolk would be a very interesting thing, and I assure you that our friend John was anything but interesting.  No, it was Duke Harold Paddington Thomas Winchester III (how’s THAT for an interesting name, hmm?) who was despised by the people, sneered at as he passed down the street, and cursed at under people’s breaths.  Not just because of the taxes, of course.  He also confiscated the crops for his army, took the iron and tools for his palace, and persistently hit on all the cute girls in town, whether they liked him or not (and I assure you, they did not).

All of these things made the Duke a very un-liked yet much-talked-about man, while John the Accountant was simply ignored.  He wasn’t important enough for anyone to take notice of him.  He simply sat in his small office, exactly eight hours every day (with one half hour for lunch), counting the money he’d collected before it was sent off to the Duke’s palace.  Now it usually only took a few hours on Tax Day for John to finish counting all the money, and this left the other twenty-nine days in the month for paperwork.  Not that there was much paperwork to do, mind you.  There were no W-4’s or tax returns or anything else like that.  John simply had a ledger in which he recorded who had paid their taxes and who hadn’t.  The ledger was a perfectly boring green-bound book that he purchased, on the 10th of each month, at the local general store.  Sometimes he bought a blue-bound book instead, just to make things interesting.  But usually he bought the green one.  He liked green.

In this green (or sometimes blue) ledger John recorded the names of everyone in town, and whether or not they had paid their taxes.  He then added up the sum of everyone who had paid their taxes in a column he marked ‘Total.’  He spent 29 days out of the month doing this, mostly because he had little else to do.  So he very carefully, very meticulously, and very boringly recorded every bit of information, being sure that each name lined up perfectly straight under the name above it, and very carefully counting and re-counting the numbers he had already counted before.

And now, in an attempt to show you just how boring this was, I shall show you an example from one of John’s ledgers (this example came out of an ultra-rare red-bound ledger I was lucky enough to find, what an exciting day that must have been for John!)

 

15th July Year xxxx

Adam Atkinson          paid 10 shillings

Franklin Barnes           paid 10 shillings

Geoffrey Bently          paid 10 shillings

George Calloway        paid 10 shillings

 

Etc, etc, etc.  It was very boring.  Then at the bottom of the last page of the book was a line that read “Total: 5620 shillings.”  It was 5620 shillings because there were 562 families in the town of Wellington.  Every few months or years when a new couple got married, or an old couple died, the number would change slightly.  It would be a very exciting day for John when, sometime soon, James Finch and Mary Ottoway would be married, and he could write a new line: “Total: 5630 schillings.”  He wasn’t particularly excited about the wedding itself, since no one had remembered to invite him.

By now you’re probably wondering when I shall get to the interesting part?  Well it will be very soon.  One must build the suspense in these things, you know.  What kind of story would it be if I didn’t have you on the edge of your seat, wondering, “But what if Adam Atkinson didn’t pay his taxes.  Oh, what an exciting day our hero John would have writing ‘Adam Atkinson paid 0 shillings.’  Then he would even get the excitement of reporting it to the Duke, calling the sheriff, and having Adam Atkinson thrown in shackles and imprisoned for tax evasion!”  Have I gotten you that excited yet?  I certainly hope not.  This isn’t meant to be an exciting story.  I told you, this is a perfectly ordinary, perfectly normal, perfectly boring story, and I won’t have any exciting adventures or dramatic plot twists spoiling it for me!

What’s that?  I promised an interesting part about a prince?  Oh very well, if you insist.

The exciting part did indeed happen one day while John the Accountant was in his office, recording in his green-bound ledger.  He had just finished writing the line, “James Patterson paid 10 shillings,” when he looked up and noticed something outside his office window.  At first it didn’t even matter what it was that was outside his window; simply the fact that there was something, anything besides the normal, ordinary, boring town he saw every day was reason for excitement.  So John jumped up from his desk, knocking his ledger and pencils onto the floor dramatically (this was something he had practiced in case of just such an occasion, in the hopes that one day, something exciting would happen that would make him have to jump out from behind his desk, and he had wanted to make sure he would get it right).  He then ran out the door (something he wasn’t used to doing, since his practice sessions never got that far) to see what all the commotion was about.

Outside, John saw what he took to be a Royal Carriage.  It was very elaborately decorated in gold and silver, with silk curtains hanging in the windows, and some sort of royal insignia printed on the carriage doors.  The driver wore expensive silk clothing, more stylish and fancy than the townsfolks’ best holiday clothes.  John had never seen anyone, even the Duke, wearing such fancy clothing, and this was just the driver.  Though it was nothing compared to what the lady inside the carriage was wearing, which was to say nothing of the lady herself.  When she emerged, the townsfolk, who had gathered around with John to see the excitement unfold, all gasped and gaped in awe.  Before them stood a beautiful Princess, dressed in a gorgeous silk gown, brocaded with silver and gemstones, and embroidered with golden roses on the sleeves and bodice. She wore a wealth of jewelry: gold rings and bracelets, bejeweled necklaces, and a diamond-studded tiara atop her strawberry blonde hair.  She was a vision of wealth and beauty, and she had the people of the town enraptured by her loveliness.

The Princess looked around the gathered townsfolk with a critical eye, sizing them up, each and every one.  When her gaze fell on John, he blushed, expecting her to simply move on to another.  He knew there was nothing interesting about him for a Princess to want to look at.  But, despite his ordinariness, the Princess’s gaze lingered.  After a moment, John looked up and met her eyes, and was surprised to find her smiling.  Smiling!  What could it be, he pondered, that could make a Princess smile at him.  He was nothing, nobody, just a boring accountant from Wellington.  And yet she was still watching him, her eyes going over every boring part of him, her gaze drinking up his ordinariness as if she gained sustenance from his plainness.  And now she was stepping towards him!  The townsfolk were parting, making way for her as she walked, nay glided across the road to where John stood, dumbfounded.  He was in shock; he didn’t know what to do.  What if she talked to him?  What would he say?  What could he do?

A moment later the decision was taken from him, as the Princess took his hand and said, simply, “Come with me.”  John the accountant nodded, but could find no words.  The princess led him to her carriage and told him to get inside.  He sat down on the cushioned seat, shaking nervously, his life flashing before his eyes.  It only took a moment to flash, since nothing had really ever happened to him, until now, that is.  Just as his mind was beginning to get a grasp on what was happening, the princess spoke again.

“What is your name?” she asked.  He opened his mouth to reply, but she cut him off, “It doesn’t matter.  Probably something boring anyway.  Like John.  I always hated that name.  Well whatever it is, I’m sure it simply won’t do.  From now on I shall call you…. Ziegfried.”  She pursed her lips, pondering the name for a moment.  “Yes Ziegfried shall do quite nicely.  A perfect name for a prince.”

“P-p-p-p…” John, or shall we say Ziegfried, stammered.

“Yes a prince,” the princess replied.  “You are to be my husband.  You see, my parents want me to marry some noble, like Duke Winchester.”  She made an exasperated sound, showing her distaste for the very much un-liked Duke.  “Such a boar of a man.  Like all other nobles.  No no, I decided that I would choose my own husband.  Someone normal.  Someone ordinary.  Someone boring.  Someone who would make my parents absolutely sick,” she giggled with a mischievous glee.  “Just wait until they meet you!  I couldn’t have found someone who would disappoint them more if I tried.”

John was feeling more than a bit uncomfortable now, and it showed.  He was fidgeting, slumping back in his seat, and desperately trying to interpret everything that was going on.  The princess, sensing his nervousness, reached forward to pat his knee reassuringly.

“Oh don’t worry, my dear Ziegfried,” she said.  “It will be a wonderful life for you.  No more boring little town.  No more pointless mundane life.  You’ll so enjoy being a prince.  Trust me.”  She grinned, a very pretty, very princess-like grin.  John (or Ziegfried) tried to smile back, but instead he fainted.

And that is where our story comes to a close.  The new Prince Ziegfried married the Princess, and began a new, exciting, wonderful life.  He had money, glory, adventure, excitement, a beautiful wife, and a huge palace to live in.  It was everything a man could ever ask for.  And he loved it (once he got used to the name Ziegfried, that is).

As for the tales of his new life, stories of his adventures and royal escapades, tales of love and life and all kinds of exciting, interesting things like that… you won’t find those here.  If you want excitement, go and read “Prince Ziegfried the Adventurer.”  You won’t find that kind of excitement in this fairy tale, and no ‘Happily Ever After,’ either.  As I told you, this is a perfectly normal, ordinary, boring story about an accountant named John.  And I won’t have it bogged up with any excitement or adventure!

The End

 

The “Normalization” of Discrimination

This paper was originally written for a “Communicating Gender” class at Rowan University.

Despite all of the progress that has been made in gender equality and rights in America, there are still cases where people can be discriminated against based on their sex or sexuality.  Earlier this year, President Obama issued a statement about the effects of the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  According to an article in The Huffington Post (Tungol, 2012), President Obama said that repealing this law, “…upheld the fundamental American values of fairness and equality by finally and formally repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Gay and lesbian Americans now no longer need to hide who they love in order to serve the country they love.”  Yet these “American values of fairness and equality” aren’t being applied in other organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America.

According to an article by ABC News (James, 2012), a Boy Scout named Ryan Andresen has been denied the highest honor available in that organization, the Eagle Scout award, because he is gay.  This act of discrimination comes just a month after the one-year anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  The discrimination against Andresen shows that the changes in federal government policy haven’t yet spread to non-government organizations like the Boy Scouts.  This is ironic when considering how closely the Boy Scouts, as an organization, parallel the principles and duties of the U.S. military.  Just like military officers, Boy Scouts wear uniforms, are awarded honors for their achievements, and advance through ranks as a sign of their progress.  Both organizations are also supposed to stand for certain ideals, but that, in fact, is part of the problem.

James’s article reported a quote from Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America.  In the quote, Smith says that, “Agreeing to do one’s ‘Duty to God’ is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank.”  He was also quoted as saying that the “ideals and principles” of this oath are, “central to the mission of teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes.”

The issue with this philosophy is one that has been studied by scholars researching Symbolic Interactionism.  According to MacLean (2008), Symbolic Interactionism is often at work in organizations where immoral or illegal activities are occurring.  He said that, “deceptive sales practices were seen as normal, acceptable, routine operating procedure.”  While his study focused on the deceptive sales practices of Acme Insurance Company, the same concepts can be applied to other organizations.  When an organization, like the Boy Scouts, communicates about their policies in a way that makes them seem normal and accepted, it affects the way people perceive the behavior.  In particular, by stating that their principles are, “central to the mission of teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes,” they are defining their practices as not only “normal,” but as actually improving the quality of their members’ lives.  Thus the focus is taken off of the discriminatory nature of their policies, and it is instead framed as a supposedly positive, beneficial thing.

The question then arises of why this “Duty to God” can be seen as such a supposedly beneficial thing.  One possible answer is that people can judge themselves based on their perception of how God views them.  In a study done by Chatham-Carpenter (2006), the researchers found that God can act as the “Significant Other” in Symbolic Interactionism.  Just as people can change the view of their “looking glass self” based on how they believe others view them, they can also change this view based on how they believe they are viewed by God.  In the study, they found that women who believed God viewed them in a positive fashion (viewing them as “good Christians” rather than “sinners”) had the same changes in their outlook on life as women who believed their friends and family viewed them in a positive fashion.

This, then, can explain why an organization like the Boy Scouts would view their “Duty to God” as something that teaches young boys to make better decisions about their lives.  Since their perception of God’s will is that of a heteronormative view of the sort of life a young boy “should” lead, they will perceive that God has a positive perception of the Scouts only when they fit this view.  Anyone outside this binary view will be seen not just as a sinner in the eyes of people, but as a sinner in the eyes of God.  The Scouts then take on the role of the other, in this case God, and imagine how He views them and their organization.  This creates a reality for them in which they see anything outside their defined parameters as “wrong.”  Further, rather than understanding the discrimination that results as being immoral, the discrimination is instead normalized and, “perceived as acceptable, routine ways of doing business.” (MacLean, 2008).

Yet other studies have shown that this sort of behavior can have a significant effect on people’s self-esteem.  Lucas and Steimel (2009) studied the effects of discrimination against women in the “male-dominated” field of mining.  Similar to how the Boy Scouts hold this heteronormative view that only straight males are fit in their organization, Lucas and Steimel’s study shows how women are viewed as “unfit” for mining.  They said that the discriminated women, “reflect upon this composite looking glass self and respond by crafting identities that both distance themselves from and link themselves to the community-constructed gen(d)eralized other.”  Because the women miners were cast in such a negative light, there was a negative impact on their perceptions of themselves, which can often lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.  Applying a similar principle to the Boy Scouts’ views, if they feel that only straight males are able to “make better choices over their lifetimes,” this could have a negative impact on homosexual scouts who feel that they fail to fit this frame.  When a gay scout believes that his peers, or even God, perceive him as doomed to failure, it may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy that will cause him to fail.  When considered from this angle, the Boy Scouts’ discrimination can be seen not only as immoral and a source of prejudice and hate, but also as having a negative impact in the development of boys’ self-esteem and overall development, which is the exact opposite of the Boy Scouts’ stated mission.  The reality of this effect can be seen in a statement Andresen made to ABC News about his experiences with discrimination, in which he said, “It was really embarrassing and humiliating, and I was terrified.” (Donaldson James, 2012)  When a person’s emotions have been so strongly affected by the words and actions of others, the impact cannot be more clear.

What can be done to correct these injustices is not clear.  In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled, “by a 5-to-4 vote that the Boy Scouts have a constitutional right to exclude gay members because opposition to homosexuality is part of the organization’s ”expressive message.”” (Greenhouse, 2000).  Lacking any legal backing to make a change, Andresen’s mother has attempted to overrule the Boy Scouts’ decision by seeking media coverage and starting an online petition (Donaldson James, 2012).  However, it’s likely that more needs to be done than simply taking action over this incident.  Discrimination of this sort persists not simply because there is prejudice and hate in the world, but because that hate is being normalized by the way organizations talk about it.  When a group disguises discrimination behind their “ideals” and their “mission,” it makes it far too easy to convince people that this sort of thing is “normal.”  Just as MacLean’s study showed how this normalization of immoral practices can lead to wide-scale illegal activity within an organization, the normalization of discrimination is what allows it to continue to exist in an organization like the Boy Scouts.  Perhaps one day they’ll change their policies, and then they can truly help young boys to “make better choices” as they claim.  But this will happen only when these “better choices” are the ones that exclude discrimination and embrace equality across all genders and sexual orientations.

References:

1.         Donaldson James, S. (2012, Oct 5). Gay Boy Scout, Bullied by Troop, Denied Eagle Rank. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/boy-scout-bullied-denied-eagle-rank-gay/story?id=17401340#.UIg1D2ez6So

2.         Donaldson James, S. (2012, Oct 5). Gay Scout Denied Eagle Award Says He Believes in God. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/gay-boy-scout-denied-eagle-award-believes-god/story?id=17407747#.UIhHHmez6So

3.         Tungol, JR. (2012, Sept 5). ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ One-Year Repeal Anniversary: 25 Amazing Moments. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-anniversary_n_1891519.html

4.         Chatham-Carpenter, A. (2006).  Internal Self-Esteem: God as Symbolic Interactionism’s “Significant Other”?  Journal of Communication and Religion, Vol 29 (No 1). 103-126

5.         Lucas, K. & Steimel, S. J. (2009).  Creating and Responding to the Gen(d)eralized Other: Women Miners’ Community-Constructed Identities.  Women’s Studies in Communication, Vol 32 (No 3).  320-347

6.         Maclean, T. L. (2008).  Framing and Organizational Misconduct: A Symbolic Interactionist Study.  Journal of Business Ethics (2008).  78:3-16

7.         Greenhouse, L. (2000, Jun 29). THE SUPREME COURT: THE NEW JERSEY CASE; Supreme Court Backs Boy Scouts In Ban of Gays From Membership. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/29/us/supreme-court-new-jersey-case-supreme-court-backs-boy-scouts-ban-gays-membership.html

Watch the Universe Do the Rest, Part 2

(Continued from: Watch the Universe Do the Rest)

I thought it would end there.  I’d had my silly moment to shine, and I’d gone home and written a small story about it.  After that, I promptly forgot that it had ever happened.  I thought that the moment was behind me.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

A few days later, I received the following text from a friend of mine:

Chris: Dude, there’s a video of you up on YouTube
Wed, Oct 24, 2012, 9:15 PM

Confused, and a bit concerned, I asked him for a link.  He directed me to a YouTube video that had captured my lone performance from a few nights before.

I watched the video with a small amount of embarrassment.  It seemed to be nothing special.  I wasn’t particularly impressed with my performance.  The clip was all of twenty seconds long.  It was almost not worth mention.  Though the video was soon circulated among all of my friends, who got a bit of a laugh.  I sheepishly responded to their jokes and light-hearted praise.  I figured it would end there.

Once again, I was wrong.

I forgot about the video for awhile, until one day, when I was out at Pep Boys getting my car serviced.  While I was sitting in the waiting room, reading, someone across the room pointed at me and asked, “Hey, aren’t you the ‘Standing on a chair’ guy?”

My response was to look dumbly up at him and ask, “What?”

“Yeah!” he said.  “I saw that shit on YouTube!  Fucking awesome, man!”

“Uhh, thanks…” I replied, returning to my book.  I was a bit disconcerted that some random person had somehow recognized me, though considering I was still in my hometown, I had no way of realizing just how far the phenomenon had already spread.

When I got home that night, I decided to check the video once more.  What I saw could not have shocked me more: over 200,000 hits, with thousands of ‘likes’ and only a scattering of ‘dislikes.’  I booted up AOL Instant Messenger and sent a message to the friend who had originally brought the video to my attention:

Jason Cantrell (11:19:55 PM): Yo
Chris (11:23:29 PM): whats up man
Jason Cantrell (11:23:47 PM): Have you seen what’s been going on with that video?
Chris (11:24:17 PM): What video?
Chris (11:24:57 PM): Oh wait, that thing with the chair? No, what?
Jason Cantrell (11:25:49 PM): It’s got like 200,000 hits…
Chris (11:27:03 PM): What!? Really?
Chris (11:27:08 PM): I didn’t think it was that good?
Jason Cantrell (11:27:14 PM): Me neither.
Chris (11:27:23 PM): what you think?
Chris (11:27:30 PM): Going viral?
Chris (11:27:48 PM): Pretty cool, right?
Jason Cantrell (11:28:54 PM): I guess…

I didn’t know what to think.  Surely I wasn’t going to follow the path of the infamous Numa Numa guy.  Nor did I really want to.  I didn’t really want that level of exposure.  Of course, once I had decided to let the universe do the rest, it was really out of my hands.

It started with comments.  People posted their thoughts on the video, some mocking, some praising.  People shared the video on Facebook and Twitter.  Before I knew it, it was spreading around the world.  The hit count rose daily, soaring through the ranks on its way to over a million views.  I had nothing to do with it; I never shared the video with anyone, and in fact I had no control over it.  I didn’t even know who had posted it.  The only clue to the poster’s identity was their YouTube username: UniversalSquared.  They could have been anyone.

Next there came imitators.  Others started posting their own videos, recording themselves standing on a chair and shouting their hearts out for all the world to hear.  The range of videos crossed all cultures and areas of interests, with YouTubers proclaiming, “I AM A MUSICIAN!”, “I AM AN ACTOR!”, “I AM GAY!”, “I AM A GINGER!” or whatever else they wanted to declare.  Soon the movement grew, and it was no longer limited simply to declarations.  People climbed on chairs and danced, giving performances set to music.  Others recorded their pets on chairs.  Some people did it as pranks, standing on chairs in public places just to see what would happen.  It was the new ‘planking,‘ and the movement had no signs of stopping.  When it reached Fox News, I knew it had become something big.  It even ended up inspiring an Indy band to write a song based on the movement.

When I tried to figure out what it all meant, I realized it was all about participatory culture.  Michael Wesch said it best, “This is really a story about new forms of expression and new forms of community and new forms of identity emerging…”  He described the cultural reaction to the Numa Numa video by saying, “This video obviously became a huge phenomenon … and you’ll see people from all over the world joining in this dance.  And this then becomes something really important that’s going on.”  He was referring to the spread of culture.  The celebration of being able to join in.  Of being able to participate on a field that was once restricted only to professional actors and musicians.  Before the internet, before YouTube, anyone who wanted to perform and make themselves known had to audition and risk rejection from producers.  Only a select few, the best of the best, could ever become famous, could ever achieve anything of their dreams.

Yet now, anyone could.  Anyone can reach out there, and grab their small bit of fame.  All they had to do was find their own chair, drag it out into the own street, climb on high, and shout out to the world, “I AM A ______!”  And by doing so, they are doing more than making a declaration.  They are grabbing their own little piece of fame.

(Note: I do not actually own or have any connection to any of the content linked above.)

The Future of Writing

The following is a presentation originally created for a class at Rowan University.  The assignment, created by Professor Bill Wolff, was to analyze various aspects of writing in the digital age.  The presentation was then done using a mixture of text, images, audio, and video, making it a prime example of the versatility of new media in the current era.

Images in the presentation are a combination of screenshots of my own work, creative commons images, and screenshots of TED videos. Additionally, since the work was created for a class, it falls under Fair Use Guidelines and within the exemptions to DMCA Section 1201 rules announced by the Library of Congress on July 26, 2010.

The visual layout of the presentation was made using Prezi, and the video and audio were recorded using Jing. The voice you hear is none other than yours truly.

You can view the presentation in its entirety here.  Below is the written transcript of the recording:

At its core, I believe that writing is communication.  Whether a writer wishes to tell a story, share personal details about themselves, educate others, or simply entertain, writing is a means of expressing those thoughts and ideas so that others can receive them.  In the past, the written word was simply one of the most effective and long-lasting ways of doing so.  Unlike speech, writing could be transported across distances and time, allowing a message to be shared with a much broader audience.  Given enough time, a profound work could be spread across the whole world.  However, the advancements of technology today have changed the way communication takes place.  It has first changed the power of the written word, allowing it to be transferred more quickly and to a much broader audience.  In addition, it has given us the means to share images and voices across distances and time, in a way that only the written word could be shared in the past.

In order to ‘be a writer,’ and to do so successfully, one must consider how this communication takes place.  Technology has granted us a wide variety of mediums we can use to share thoughts and ideas, but a writer needs to understand the advantages and limitations of them in order to utilize them properly.  One must also understand one’s audience, and how, when, and where that audience will receive one’s message.  In the past, the audience was simply readers, and a writer knew that they wouldn’t receive the written message until after a work had been written, revised, published, and distributed.  Now, however, many written forms allow for immediate online publication to a broad audience, who can access the work from anywhere in the world.  The advent of smartphones takes this a step further, allowing users to access media anywhere, not just from home.  No longer do they need to await distribution, or go to a bookstore or library in order to access a work.

Writers who are aware of this will understand that their writing can prompt immediate feedback, whether that be in the number of ‘likes’ a page receives, or in comments added directly to an online work.  They also need to understand the current interconnected nature of writing, where online spaces are powered by links that connect a writer’s work to other places.  This can be in the form of linking from one’s own writing directly to other things that are referenced in the work, or in the form of linking to other parts of one’s own site in order to help a reader navigate.

To be successful in this digital age of writing, a writer must also understand what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in their writing.  An understanding of html coding, linking, embedding, images, and videos will help a writer to sculpt a more versatile environment, which in turn will allow them to better get their message across.  They must also understand how to connect these things, such as combining videos with voice-overs, or inserting images into the appropriate places in their text.  Without proper use of these tools, online writing can be seen as sloppy and amateurish.

The future of writing is no doubt going to bring this interconnectivity to even greater levels.  The more tools we develop, and the more ways we have of sharing information around the world, the more a writer will need to know about the tools that exist, the effect they have, and the methods needed to use them properly.  These tools will likely include new interfaces, allowing a writer to create their words without the need to type, such as can already be seen with voice recognition software today.  They will also include new ways to link information, connecting not just web pages but entire ideas together in new forms.  We can already embed links into photos and videos, and soon they might be able to connect on even deeper levels.  We do need to stay aware of the potential pitfalls, since the links that surround us may include restrictions and limitations, filtering out content, including that which we create.  But on the other hand, the ability to reach out across such a broad scale is something unmatched by anything that we’ve seen before.

Watch the Universe Do the Rest

The following is partially based on a true story. Some of what follows is completely true, some is fictional. Certain details have been changed for the sake of creative license.

It was late in the night on a cold October evening.  I was at work, delivering pizzas in South Jersey, just as I did every Saturday night.  And just as I had been every Saturday night before this, I was bored.  My job was endless boredom.  Take a pizza, drive to someone’s house, get paid, go back to the store.  Repeat for eleven hours.

To pass the time, in between deliveries I checked my Twitter feed on my phone.  Usually I tweeted from the back room of the restaurant, while I was waiting for a pizza to finish cooking.  Over the last two months since I started on Twitter, I had started following over two hundred people.  On this particular cold Saturday night, I noticed an interesting series of tweets from one of them in particular, a certain Ksenia Anske:

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I was intrigued, as I often am, by Ksenia’s unique and humorous motivation techniques.  I decided to send her an ‘at reply,’ which resulted in the following exchange:

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It seemed as if I had no choice.  It was now a matter of pride.  But don’t they say that ‘Pride comes before the fall’?  I certainly didn’t want my pride to make me fall… off the chair and into the street.  I might get run over.

Yet sometimes one must face such fears.  Though I wanted to set a good, responsible example while doing so.  It would have been foolhardy of me to perform this daring act in the middle of a busy highway.

Instead, I chose a side street.  One close enough to the main roads that I could be sure my message would be heard, yet still far enough back that I would be safe from traffic and other hazards.  Once the street was chosen, I had another issue to face: I needed a chair.  Luckily, my restaurant has plenty of chairs, both in the dining room, and outside in our outdoor dining area.  I chose the latter for two reasons: one, it would be easier to sneak the chair away without my manager seeing me (I was still on the clock, mind you); and two, those chairs were of a more stable design, and I expected I’d be less likely to fall off of one.

I waited until I had a delivery, since it gave me an excuse to go outside.  The pizza was placed inside a thermal bag, and deposited on the passenger seat of my 2009 Toyota Prius.  I then snuck over to the outdoor dining area, snagged a chair, and tucked it away in the Prius’s hatchback.  All the pieces in place, I then proceeded to my destiny.

I drove down the block to the Chosen Place, and parked my car illegally in a fire zone, having no other immediately available options.  I wasn’t concerned about any consequences; the pizza delivery sign atop my car essentially granted me immunity to parking tickets.  I retrieved the chair from where it was stowed, and found a good spot to place it.  A bit jittery, my heart pounding, and my skin goosepimpling in the October wind, I climbed up on the chair.  My perch a bit wobbly, I spread my arms out for balance, then took a deep breath to steel my resolve.  Then, at last, the culmination of my efforts was achieved as I shouted out for all the universe (or at least, a one block radius around where I stood) to hear:

“I AM A WRITER!”

The universe responded in the form of a horn blaring at me, and a passing driver shouting at me to get out of the street.

My face flushed with heat, and I climbed down from the mountain peak and returned to my car.  My pride was now tempered by sheepishness, as I nervously looked around, hoping that no one I knew had actually seen me.  The moment had passed, but the adrenaline rush of it was carried with me as I delivered the next pizza, collected the money, and returned to the store.  It was my last delivery of the night before closing time, but it was also my most invigorating.

(Continue to: Part 2)