Sunday, August 4, 2013



I confess I don’t feel entirely easy unless I’m working on a major writing project. Currently, I have one in waiting—the completion of a novel which was going exceptionally well when I had to break off to do other things—so my peace of mind leaves something to be desired. A little voice keeps whispering in my ear: “You should be writing. You should be writing. And blogging isn’t enough.”

My reactions are pretty typical: You write with absolute focus and intensity for months; experience a profound reaction when the project is completed; and then yearn to immerse yourself in whatever writing task comes next. And I am decidedly not short of ideas.

As matters stand, I have been tidying up a number of administrative matters, and am trying to figure out a major web site which went badly wrong. Since the website is mine, I have no choice but to give it my close attention—but resolving it is proving to be damnably difficult. The problem lies not with content—which I have already written—but with layout and communication. And the thing is huge. Though it is divided into short sections, and is easy to navigate, it is extremely comprehensive. It’s the WAR & PEACE of websites. I’m not encouraged by the thought  that Tolstoy spent ten years on his opus. To spend ten years on my website would seem to be carrying perfectionism to excess.

Incidentally, if you haven’t read Tolstoy’s masterpiece, you haven’t lived. I first read it in my early teens and it was a life changing event. It is also surprisingly easy to read.

It’s at times like these that I wish I had wider skills. For years I thought writing skills would be sufficient for a writing career. That was naïve in itself because the successful author has always needed inter-personal, political, and marketing skills—and to be a good public speaker has never gone amiss.

Today, I deeply regret that I never trained as a graphic designer, am not adequately familiar with constructing a web site, and cannot both program and maintain a computer. Paradoxically, though we have entered an age of ultra-specialization, we also need to be equipped with a range of mostly computer-based practical skills. Overall, I’m not sure it is a bad thing—but I wish I had known earlier.

Writing apart, I am a good strategic planner, can speak entertainingly, am a pretty good economist, a fair historian, an excellent researcher, a talented analyst, and my knowledge of both terrorism and military matters is considerable—but HTML makes me hang my head. God knows, I understand the principles—they are not that complicated—but my brains screams: “Life is too short for this!” Writing entertainingly with clarity and pace is a life’s work in itself.

Such is the world of the writer in the 21st century. By the 22nd century, I expect robots and software will be doing all the work—including writing.

I don’t think I’m going to worry about that.

CHAIN BOOKSTORES: According to Bowker Market Research, U.S. chain bookstores (Barnes & Noble etc.) lost 13 percent of their share of book purchases in 2012. Overall, such booksellers saw their share decrease from 13 percent to 19 percent of volume.

In contrast, e-retailers (Amazon etc.) saw their share of book purchases by volume increase from 25 percent in 2010 to 44 percent in 2012.

Book browsing—one of my favorite pastimes—is at risk.

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