I was intrigued by what Walt Kuenstler, a fellow ghostwriter and partner at Winans Kuenstler Publishing in Pennsylvania had to say in a recent blog. He queries whether writers need to master more than just words in order to survive in the modern world.
Here’s his blog:
Editorial work is now computer work.
Virginia Hefferman, writing for Yahoo News admonishes all of us writer-types that the integration of digital technology, writing, and publishing of any kind has become the new normal.
She cites this ‘help wanted’ message posted to Twitter by Nicholas Thompson, the editor of The New Yorker website “: “Hiring a digital project manager. Help us at @NewYorker run cool, ambitious tech projects. Ideally, code too. Ping me.”
Ms. Hefferman continues, “Literary work—editorial work—is now computer work. We’ve known it, on some level, for years. But now it’s right there in the job descriptions. What’s the lesson in this for the rest of who aim to make media—whether it’s music, magazines or movies? We must overcome our occupational allergy to product design and marketing and then, as soon as possible, we must learn computer code.”
“Whether we call it photography or prose or TV or graphics the media we now make iscode. The Internet speaks in code; it thinks in code; it moves in code; it looks like code; its strength and value is code.”
Times change. Idioms change. I am 63 years old. When I first worked for the NY Times, giant steam-driven Linotype machines poured hot lead into moulds to make the type that printed each edition. My own grandfather supported a wife and two children retouching photographs with a steady hand and a fine-tipped artist’s brush—no Photoshop, and no computers for that matter.
We forget that Rembrandt and even Matisse not only painted, but also made their own pigments. So today, the 21st century writer confronted with the marvel of interactive eBooks now thinks as a designer, a digital artist, a videographer, a networker, as well as making those pesky words form coherent sentences.
No, not every book will become interactive. Paper books will continue to require no batteries and no WiFi, thank god. But moving forward, eBooks may require ghost writers and ghost programmers as well!
Walt makes a very good point. You see, if we look back far in time to the time of the ancient Egyptians, writers had to be good at wielding a hammer and chisel. Then, as things progressed, they needed to make paper out of papyrus. Centuries later, writers had to know how to make a quill pen out of a feather; there was an art to getting the nib just right. Ink, too, they had to mix, using all sorts of pigments, etc.
We do seem to be getting back to similar days, but only with computers. I for one have taken a great interest in ‘how’ computers work because they are the tools of my craft. I also don’t need to be held to ransom by the hardware and software companies of the world, who all seem to want to charge the earth for their wares. So I taught myself how to build my own lightweight operating system that will work on even the oldest of computers.
My operating system is called Arch Linux; it’s lightweight, bleeding edge (always 100% up to date), extremely fast and free.
I know exactly what Walt is getting at in his blog. And I agree. How about you?