Writing is dangerous

Old rickety bridge
Photo by Raphael Pto from FreeImages

Writing is dangerous. When you put that pen to paper, or more likely, hit that first key, you don’t know where you will end up. You set up a situation, a garden, say, with God, a tree, a couple, and a serpent. The serpent urges the woman to eat fruit from the forbidden tree, but, of course, she doesn’t because God forbade it, and she and her husband live happily ever after in the garden.

Hmm, that’s a bit of a dead end, but I’d guess that you could think of improvements. Let’s say that God visits them one day.

“Adam, Eve, are you happy here?” asks God.

“It’s brilliant. We love it.”

“”How do you know?”

“You told us. You’re God. You must be right.”

“Just eat one of the apples on that tree, guys, please.”

Sounds of munching.

“Erm, God, what’s it like out there?”

“There’s misery, pain, trouble and worries, and there’s also joy, love, happiness. There’s also kids, who roll up all those things into one delightful, infuriating package.”

“Can we go and see?”

“Yeah, but you can’t come back again.”

“OK. We understand. Where’s the door?”

Stained Glass - Adam and Eve
Photo by Janet Burgess from FreeImages

So, I didn’t know where that was going and I’ve only just started! Obviously, I began from the Garden of Eden, and had Eve resist the blandishments of the serpent. Then I had God urge Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, and consequently Adam and Eve became curious about ‘out there’. God’s going to have to cut them some slack out there, since it was He who encouraged them to eat the fruit, but I’ll leave it there, for now.

In “The Lord of the Rings” Bilbo Baggins recites a poem several times. Bilbo is referring to a real journey of course, but writing a story is much like a journey. You start off with the first word, or the first step, and you have no idea where your journey or story may take you. No idea at all.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

At some point, your feet, or your words, come across a broader way. Your feet may encounter a highway, and other people. Your words may lead you to a larger narrative, in which are embedded new characters. These characters all have ambitions and objectives. They may help or hinder you. And so the road or narrative goes on, leading you to who knows where. Whither then? You cannot say.

As a writer you live your characters. You say their words. You fight their demons. You love their loves, and sometimes you die their deaths. You experience their defeats and their triumphs. You are the hero and the villain.

Pears on a tree
Photo by Linda DuBose from FreeImages

At the same time, paradoxically, you can’t predict what happens. Any writer knows the feeling of surprise when something unexpected happens. When Adam and Eve eventually find their way back to the Garden and politely request entry, God lets them in, because, after all, he told them them to eat fruit from the Tree of Curiosity. What? You thought it was the Tree of Knowledge? If the fruit gave them knowledge, why did they have to leave the Garden? They would have known what’s out there just by eating the pear from the Tree.

And God and Adam and Eve would sit down and Adam and Eve would relate their story. Oh, God would already know it of course, but a story, even if you know it, always sounds better coming someone else. They’d introduce their kids,  and God would ask them if they wanted to stay. Adam looks at Eve and they shake their heads. Nah, Eden is OK, but it’s a bit boring, duplicitous serpents aside. They’ll take real life. God saw what He had done, and it was good.

Writing is dangerous. You never know where it is going to take you, and you never know how long it will take. You start with one sentence and the next thing you know you have a whole book. You will have agonised with your characters, you will have been surprised or shocked at what they get up to, and you will discover that the house is a mess and the dog will have left you.

Yellow Labrador
Photo by ! Dujazz from FreeImages

Writing is dangerous. It soaks up you time, your energy, and possibly your money. You will have forgotten to do your washing, your diet will have lacked balance and vitamins, and your garden will resemble a jungle.

Writing is dangerous. You sit back having completed your story. And rewritten it, perhaps several times. And altered it, added characters, removed characters, changed characters. And spell checked. And grammar and syntax checked. Dozen of times. And then you have a thought. The serpent. Embodiment of evil? Or God’s loyal servant doing God’s bidding, maybe?

Writing is dangerous. Even after you’ve finally, finally finished, you sit back, momentarily satisfied. Then you jolt upright. That documentary on waterfalls! What if the world was split by a single humongous waterfall. Those living at the top would naturally look down from above and see the lands below, but they wouldn’t be able to reach them. Those down below look up and see the towering waters and wonder if there is anything up there. Then some intrepid top-dweller invents a hot air balloon and floats over the waterfall and his craft descends to the lands below. And then…

And then you type the first sentence and everything begins again.

Empty Valley
Photo by Wim Delen from FreeImages

Death of print

English: A stack of copy paper.
English: A stack of copy paper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s amazing how the world has changed in a lifetime. My lifetime. Phones, TV, the Internet, electronic funds transfers, payment by waving a plastic card.

My parents were paid by their employers in cash and they paid for everything in cash. Most people didn’t have cars and relied on public transport and paid in cash for their tickets. Today cash is endangered.

Money Cards
Money Cards (Photo credit: jacqui.brown33)

A little later, people started to acquire bank accounts, usually in conjunction with a mortgage. Their pay was paid into their bank accounts and the mortgage payments were extracted from the bank account directly. The thing was, the bank account came a lot of paperwork. There were statements and cheque books. To whip out a cheque book and offer to pay for something was a real show of status. Today cheques are almost unused, being almost completely replaced by credit cards, debit cards and charge cards. Some younger people have never seen a cheque and most shops will not accept one. Many banks will supply statements over the Internet these days.

English: 1912 US cartoon by Rollin Kirby, show...
English: 1912 US cartoon by Rollin Kirby, showing George Walbridge Perkins (with a check book symbolizing control of money) and Amos Pinchot (weilding a letter of support from Theodore Roosevelt campaing manager Senator Joseph M. Dixon) battling for control of the U.S. Progressive Party. Figure in the distance presumbably represents Roosevelt coming with his “big stick” to settle things. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people got their news through newspapers. Paper newspapers, from the rarefied air of the Times to the slightly more foetid air of the tabloids. The network of distribution of news via started from the printing presses and initially was distributed by vans, trains, and more vans. Bundles of papers were dropped off at strategic points, and newsagents picked them up, sorted them and gave them to young boys and girls to distribute, dropping them into letter boxes, countrywide.

Galveston, Texas, 1943. Newspaper delivery boy...
Galveston, Texas, 1943. Newspaper delivery boys with bicycles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A similar distribution network was used for the evening papers. These however were distributed mostly to the streets around business places and railway stations and similar places where people would pick them up on their way home from work. The main headlines would be prominently displayed as teasers to persuade people to buy them.

Checking the headlines
Checking the headlines (Photo credit: gato-gato-gato)

Newsagents existed to distribute the paper that the news was printed on. As a sideline, they would sell other things, like magazines, tobacco, and confectionery. As newsprint volumes have fallen, the old time newsagents had to specialise in something else, like the confectionery that they used to sell as a sideline, or in some cases groceries, particularly the staples such as canned foods and milk. Some might sell books or glossy magazines, but even these versions of print material are under threat.

dakar newsagent
dakar newsagent (Photo credit: noodlepie)

My letter box is still full of paper. Much of it is the ubiquitous junk mail, of course, the flyers and offers which advertisers hope will entice us into buying. It appears that the expense of creating and sending junk mail is still worthwhile, or so the advertisers believe. Some of the paper is comprised of what can loosely be called “community newspapers”. These papers, largely funded by advertising, and run on the cheap, are distributed free, and contain local news only, mainly sports and local politics.

“Letter boxes” in the UK are slots in the front door of a house, not actual boxes on poles as in many other countries.)

English: Letter Box Detail of an old front doo...
English: Letter Box Detail of an old front door which now graces a small shed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What my letter box rarely contains is an actual letter, written by someone, stamped and posted by someone, sorted and delivered to my letter box by a real postman. There are a few firms that still insist on paper invoices and local tradesmen tend to still prefer papers invoices but apart from that and a few real letters from older relatives, I receive little real mail these days. No wonder that postal services world-wide are having issues.

Typical advertising mail
Typical advertising mail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is easy to see the reason for the decline of the print industries world-wide. In a word, the Internet. When it is simple and cheap to sit at a computer and type an email, or finger tap a  message into a tablet or phone, and have a response in minutes, why would anyone manually write a letter, find an envelope, find or purchase a stamp, and find a post box to drop the letter in? Although the vast majority of letters get through safely, there are exceptions, while email is almost certainly going to be delivered and you will get a message if your email doesn’t go through.

Email email email
Email email email (Photo credit: RambergMediaImages)

Similarly in banking. Once every transaction had a paper trail. All transfers and payments were neatly written in books, all ledgers were balanced by hand and banks shifted huge numbers of notes, cheques, coins and other forms of paper money. These days I rarely carry cash, and I haven’t seen or used a cheque in years.

I do all my banking on the Internet, using my computer or phone. I pay for things, even small things like a cup of coffee (actually I drink tea), with a debit card, with a credit card as backup for emergencies. Gas stations, grocery stores, tradesmen, and every other kind of store takes the plastic.

Swipes, Bytes, and Debit Cards
Swipes, Bytes, and Debit Cards (Photo credit: SimpleIllustrations)

More and more our transactions with government departments, like car licensing or tax matters, are conducted online. Even if you have to go in to a government agency for some matter or other, they will scan your documents rather than copy them. If you fill in a paper form, they will transfer the data to their computer systems while you wait.

Picture Scanner
Picture Scanner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In all fields, except possibly the field of junk mail, paper is being used less and less. Even magazines are headed online, with smartphone apps for New Scientist magazine allowing you to read it anywhere that you may be. An added advantage of on-line magazines is that the electronic copy is, in general, cheaper than the paper version.

HTC Aria android 2.2 smart phone review www.li...
HTC Aria android 2.2 smart phone review http://www.liewcf.com/review-htc-aria-android-2-2-6878/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have forgotten, until now, that I was going to mention books. Books are nice objects to hold, and they make a nice addition to one’s decor. I enjoy reading a book and have several shelves full. Maybe 200 books? But on my electronic devices I have maybe 10 times that number. OK, most are old classics, which are out of copyright, but a number I have bought specifically to read on-line. An on-line reader keeps your place, let’s you bookmark passages and allows you to quickly search for something that you read somewhere in your on-line collection.

books
books (Photo credit: brody4)

Books are not yet redundant, but they are slowly heading on-line. While it may not be soon, and while not every book will disappear on-line, printed books may become rare and expensive.

Print is dying everywhere and the amazing thing is that it has happened in a short period of time. The spread of computers first caused volumes of paper generated to increase, but the Internet and the way that it has allowed sharing of documents, plus the smaller and faster computers and hugely capacious hard drives, culminating is the ubiquitous smart phones has saved millions of trees from destruction.

Tree in Fog
Tree in Fog (Photo credit: Photomatt28)

 

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