you can teach old writers new media

MagicianWhether you write to sell, invite, entice, or provoke, your words can’t do their job unless the audience sees them. In professional writing, distribution is everything. The availability of new electronic distribution technologies only increases the opportunities — and the challenges — for reaching them.

Here are two interesting recent articles on the intersection of writing and distribution, with significant implications for writers:

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three common misconceptions about e-mail

Full TrashJournalist Xeni Jardin recently discussed the perils of storing and deleting government e-mail on her weekly NPR spot, XeniTech. Prompted by the recent controversial decision by the District of Columbia government to purge all e-mails every six months, Jardin presented a brief overview of the complex issue of electronic records retention.

Unintentionally, Jardin’s piece highlights and perpetuates some of the most common misconceptions about the nature of records management in the information age. Let’s take a look:

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getting to “thanks” #2: the power of appreciation

This afternoon I e-mailed a client, the editor of a bimonthly national magazine, with an update on an article I’m writing for her. She promptly wrote back to thank me, and also to let me that she’s been receiving many compliments on another article that I wrote that is about to go to press. “I SO appreciate your valuable contribution to [the magazine],” she wrote. “And I haven’t forgotten that you would like to do more.”

Not surprisingly, for this editor I am willing to walk through fire.

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The Japanese expression mottainai has its roots in ancient Buddhist practice. The meaning has evolved over time; today, it is commonly used to mean, “what a shame to waste this!”

The spirit of mottainai manifests in many ways. Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai has adopted mottainai as a motto to encourage people to respect and take responsibility for their environment through frugality and conservation. Salvaging wood from old barns to use in new buildings is an expression of mottainai. So is the decision to buy well-built, quality tools that can be handed down through generations instead of cheap ones that will soon be discarded.

I think that the concept of mottainai can be applied to writing as well . . .

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thinking blogs

The motto at the top of my blog has become something of a professional mantra for me. My goal here on the Active Voice blog (and by extension through all my writing and editing work) is to address issues that are of concern to readers and writers — whether practical, technical, philosophical, or whimsical.

Thinking Blogger AwardWriter, certified creativity coach, and journal writing teacher Quinn McDonald, a regular here on the AV blog, has tagged me with a Thinking Blogger Award, a meme started earlier this year by ilker yoldas. Quinn described me as “the thinking person’s writer.”

(*Blush*) Thanks, Quinn! Coming as it does from the thinking person’s coach, that means a lot!

To fulfill my obligations as an awardee, and to help pass on its spirit, I must name name five blogs that I, too, find to be interesting, informative, and helpful. Here are five blogs that make me think:

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discussion: is everything miscellaneous?

I have yet to read David Weinberger’s new book, Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, but I am looking forward to doing so. The ongoing discussion about the impact of hypertext on information classification is of great personal and professional interest to me. Whenever I come across a new article or blog entry on the subject, I read it eagerly and with real interest. There is much that remains to be said.

As a writer with a Masters in Library Science, I am acutely aware of the limiting and liberating powers of classification and its impact on writing. The fundamental element of classification, after all, is the word. However, I have come to believe that many writers are either misinterpreting or misrepresenting the premises and assumptions behind our inherited classification systems.

What makes me say that? And why should writers care?

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