Monday, August 31, 2009

Take it Slow

"It's sad, really," I was telling Chris, a best friend who lives in Dubai, "I'm studying English at school, and essentially, I'm studying it to be a writer. But everything is online now. I have a feeling my résumé will include works published online, rather than offline (books, magazines, journals, etc.). And it makes my soon-to-be profession feel ... cheap, disregarded even."

Last week, John Freeman of The Wall Street Journal shared my exact sentiments in his recent article, A Manifesto for Slow Communication. Freeman explains that words like "speed" and "urgency" are not synonyms for "effectiveness" and "accuracy."
"Making decisions in this communication brownout, though without complete infor­mation, we go to war hastily, go to meetings unprepared, and build relationships on the slippery gravel of false impressions."
As a writer, I feel this speaks to me on a deeper level: my career. There is something great about admiring, holding, smelling, and caressing a book or magazine or newspaper with one's own text printed on it. Personally, the romanticism behind it is greater in comparison to seeing text on a monitor. But more importantly, literacy standards continue to fall. Everything else seems to be improving but ... our literacy skills? Freeman illustrates the following:
"It [the Industrial Age] has made it more difficult to read slowly and enjoy it, hastening the already declining rates of literacy. It has made it harder to listen and mean it, to be idle and not fidget."
This manifesto runs parallel to the ongoing multi-tasking and the frying attention span debates. In the blink of an eye we can read headlines without being fully informed. In the next blink we can be briefed about the latest celebrity gossip. Next we are glancing through our email, then we are skimming through a Google Book just to make it quickly to the next eye's blink. Are any of these things ever done carefully? Or effectively? Or with our full attention? Is it fair to the authors who have worked on what you're reading? Another question: Did I lose you?

My stance is not to be confused with a stance against fast communication, rather to know when to opt for slow communication. Like Freeman states in his manifesto,
"We need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from effi­ciency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships."
Well said! Now, if I could only get this in print...

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