| Great StoryTelling Network Newsletter
Volume 14, Issue 1 – 15 January 2018
Happy New Year!
I am aware that’s it been some time since I sent out the newsletter. Since last August, to be precise. Many things happened in that time, most tragic of all is that my previous computer died on me. I lost all my emails and had to start from scratch.
While things to settle down, I did lots of observing, listening and thinking. I read about writers and publishers who made grand plans to expand their online businesses. I was somewhat envious of all their success. As time passed, though, I became aware that these people weren’t always doing things on their own. Unlike me, they had a whole army of freelancers helping them.
Another curious thing that happened was during many conversations, people couldn’t recall my latest stories published in the papers. But they had no problem recalling ‘The Banana Leaf Men’. I wondered why this was so. I mean, that novel has so many faults and I never dreamed it would be the success it was.
I pondered over all this and, in time, it came to me: the tale was written at a time when I wasn’t competing with anyone or listening to people’s criticism. I wasn’t worrying about things like SEO or advertising revenue. I didn’t want ‘world domination’ either. I simply wanted to tell the story.
So, when the new year came, I resolved to stop pushing for succes. Metaphorically standing still, I decided that my aim will be to ‘go local’ and ‘go slow’. In other words, I will work on my craft and ‘repair’ the site on my own. It’s time to be happy writing again.
As I’ll do all this repair work alone, please bear with me. If you feel that there is a resource I should look at, or that there are broken links, please let me know.
One of the first changes I’ve made is that this newsletter will only go out once a month from now on. Both Rohi and I will strive to publish longer and, hopefully, more entertaining stories to read. I hope you enjoy reading them and if you have any ideas to share, please let me know.
One last thing: please let me know if you prefer the whole story published in this newsletter (as I’ve done below) or you’d like me to revert to the previous format of excerpts with a link to the full piece on the site.
In the last quarter of 2017, I had to learn something new fast and write about it – Industry 4.0. Wikipedia says that, essentially, ‘it’s the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies’. Yes. At first glance, it all sounds like gobbledygook.
As I worked on the article, though, I began to wonder how this trend would affect the publishing industry. Would we writers and storytellers respond favourably to it? How could we automate the writing process? Could robots write our stories for us? What if they started writing their own stories? What would they say about humans? Ah… the many questions, permutations and combinations.
Let’s see if I can narrow all this down a little. For a start, the term Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution. The steam engine marked the first industrial revolution which had the largest impact on the transportation industry. Then came electricity which marked the second industrial revolution and changed the face of the manufacturing industry. After this came the internet which gave rise to services such as e-commerce. Now, with the fourth industrial revolution, the idea is that everything is being driven by technology.
Revolution of Perfection
The fear that many people have now is that they’ll be left behind if they do not embrace Industry 4.0. There are multiple examples to show how all sorts of people are investing in Industry 4.0.
As recently as two days ago, I received a link to an online video where robots were now being used in a kopitiam (coffee shop). While there were still humans who took orders and greeted you, it was the robots who served the food. And they seemed pretty polite about it.1
Then there’s the shoemaker who wants to have robots greet you at his stores in Malaysia. That robot will take measurements of your feet and, after you’ve chosen the right pattern, the robot will send all the necessary data via the internet to his ‘counterpart’ (presumably another robot) in a factory in Italy. Lo’ and behold, you’ll have your custom-made Italian leather shoes delivered to your doorstep. And you didn’t even have to leave the country.2
In China, there is now an orthopaedic robotic system that assists surgeons to carry out surgeries on the extremities, pelvic fractures and the whole spinal segment (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral vertebrae).3
Reading all these Industry 4.0 examples, it occurred to me that we weren’t entering Industry 4.0. We were, in fact, well into Industry 4.Perfection.
Was I ignoring Industry 4.Perfection at my peril? I mean, see what happened when Kodak refused to embrace the digital camera? I, therefore, made a concerted effort to join an online community. Horror-of-horrors, I registered for a Facebook account. I began to look at software that could help automate my writing and publishing endeavours.
How Much Lonelier Can We Be?
Anyway, I finally listened to my telephone guy who said I had no choice but to invest in a new phone. While mulling over the money I’d have to spend, I chanced upon an article that made me rethink this whole Industry 4.Perfection. The writer had struck up conversation with a young businessman. Since his was a one-man-show, the businessman didn’t need to rent an office space. What he wanted, however, was to become part of a ‘co-working office’.
Trusty old Wikipedia explains that ‘Co-working is a ‘style of work that involves a shared workplace … Unlike in a typical office, those co-working are usually not employed by the same organi[s]ation.’ This young man preferred the co-working office because he wanted to be around people to have a sense of belonging.
A few days later, I met some friends for coffee. One of them had lost a tremendous amount of weight in the last 12 months. We assumed that it was because she’d finally used the expensive gym equipment her husband installed in their home.
“No,” she replied vehemently. “I joined a gym.” Responding to our incredulous looks, she said, “I was so bored in the house. I wanted to see other people.”
The common thread in these stories is that both of them were lonely and needed human interaction. It occurred to me that we writers are already solitary people who often work alone. If we embrace this Industry 4.Perfection, how much lonelier will we be?
Robotic Show and Tell
One by one, Williams discussed the professions where humans will no longer be needed. Then, there, in writing were the words I feared – even journalists [read it as ‘writers in general’] are delusional if we think we’re not going to be affected by these robots. ‘The Associated Press,’ he wrote, ‘already has used a software program from a company called Automated Insights to churn out passable copy covering Wall Street earnings and some college sports, and last year awarded the bots the minor league baseball beat.’
Trying to end the piece on a positive note, Williams mentioned Andrew McAfee, a management theorist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. McAfee feels that ‘[r]estaurants that have very good hospitality staff are not about to go away, even though we have more options to order via tablet.’ Obviously, neither Williams nor McAfee have visited that kopitiam in Malaysia.
And what of the article I wrote that started all this thinking in the first place? Well, even with a new laptop and WiFi, it was impossible for me to meet the deadline. The monsoon season was upon us and the technician who came to check our internet lines informed me that the floods had caused state-wide disruption to the internet connection.
As I deactivated my Facebook account to connect with ‘real’ friends, I was left with this one, still-unanswered question: In the time of Industry 4.Perfection, will a robot be able to control the weather?
Two men were chopping wood in the forest. One man worked continuously but the second man rested for a few minutes every hour. At the end of the day, the first man was surprised to see that the other had a much bigger pile of chopped wood.
“How did you manage to chop more wood than me, though you rested every hour?” he asked.
“While I was resting,” replied the other, “I was sharpening my axe.”
That’s why Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “Give me six hours to cut a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
In the modern world, we hardly use axes. So what is our most powerful tool?
When schoolchildren are asked which is the most powerful tool, they gave answers like power drills, rockets, robots, nuclear weapons, internet, computers, supercomputers, and so on. They are all right in their own way.
However, the right answer is…. the human mind, which has conceived and created all these marvelous inventions.
What does all of this mean for us writers in 2018?
Many of you have undoubtedly made resolutions for the new year. Perhaps you have decided to write a certain number of words every single day. Or you have resolved to blog once a week or publish a certain number of books or launch your first online course or gain 1000 email subscribers or more and better clients.
Thanks to the internet, the possibilities are endless.
Or perhaps you have resolved not make any new year resolutions. Instead, you may want to ”Go with the flow,” and let the universe decide your path for you.
Whether you have set goals for the new year or not, there is one magic formula that can help you to become a more successful writer in 2018.
And that phrase is: (drum roll)
Let us break this magic formula into its fundamental principles:
In the words of Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” You’ve all heard it, right? And it’s true. We are all victims, directly or indirectly, of powerful people who talk and act irresponsibly. No one would deny it.
And yet, as writers, we often don’t recognize that the opposite is also true. “With great responsibility, comes great power.” The more responsibility we take for our choices, the greater our power to exert those choices.
For example, look back at 2017.
If you did, congratulations! However, I suspect you are in a minority.
Writing is hard. We have to battle procrastination, perfectionism, fear of failure, distractions, lethargy, writer’s block, blank page syndrome, and so on. However, the bottomline is we must take responsibility for our failure instead of making excuses.
The flip side of responsibility
Rahul Badami, bestselling author of How to Change Your Life in the Next 15 Minutes, advises us to write continuously without stopping or editing as soon as we wake up. Transfer your thoughts onto paper, whatever they may be. And most importantly, he says, “Don’t check your smartphone before you have done at least five minutes of freewriting.”
The reason why most of us find writing so difficult to do consistently is because we fail to break up writing into its three logical and distinct parts:
Jeff Goins applies this approach in his three-bucket system:
A word of caution: As far as possible, after you select an idea, complete and publish it before moving on to the next idea. Otherwise, your hard drive will turn into a minefield of lethal half-finished drafts.
Engrave on your brain, this quotation by the prolific English writer, Somerset Maugham, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
However, wisdom is a double-edged sword for writers. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, you can’t think and write at the same time. And analysis-paralysis is almost an occupational hazard. This is most often manifested by the “editing while writing” miasma, which is the Trojan horse of perfectionism and writer’s block.
Editing while writing is as crazy an idea as brushing your teeth while eating chocolate.
This is why Anne Lamott advised us to write a shitty first draft and Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” (However, Hemingway DIDN’T say, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” Don’t do it. )
However, you can’t dispense with the thinking, planning, and analysis. You have to edit and polish your first draft before you publish it. But wisdom and writing should balance each other – judicious editing should follow adventurous and uninhibited writing. The right way to do this is to use the plan-write-review-publish sequence.
The Writing Process: Plan ==> Write ==> Review ==> Publish
Join the conversation:
Rohi Shetty is a doctor, health writer, and editor. Check out his Kindle books on Amazon and connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook. If you want a free review copy of his book, Happify Your Life With Mindful Eating, write a comment below.
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