Why is Climate Change Like Technology for Writers?

British historian and author Timothy Garten Ash remarked on Charlie Rose that we are living in the Age of Adaptation. Climate change is already happening, so the challenge is to adapt to the changes it creates.

In his poem, “September 1, 1939,” W.H. Auden wrote: “We must love one another or die.” Are the dying of frogs, bees, and coral reefs; the unexplainable beachings of whales; and a floating island of garbage in the Pacific larger than Manhattan like the canary in the coal mine, warnings that we must also love Gaia–and act out of that love while there’s time—or die?

  • Climate change
  • technology
  • population growth
  • the concentration of political, economic, and technological power
  • and the rising demand for food, fuel, and water 

are transforming the planet at an accelerating rate. I don’t know if we can solve the problems they pose, but it will the hardest thing the fractious human family has ever done, and time is running out. We are undermining the planet’s future, government can’t help enough, and since we’ve never been in this situation, we have no idea when we’ll reach the tipping point at which the dangers we face will be irreversible.

Appreciating their gravity and urgency can be hard, because our perspective is limited. It’s like being in a plane. The landscape drifts by very slowly at 35 thousand feet, but the closer you are to the ground, the faster land whizzes by. The closer you are to these issues, the worse they appear.

So What?

What does this mean to writers? What do these problems and the affects of technology on writers have in common?

  • Nobody’s in charge.
  • Nobody can predict their combined affects or when we will confront them, so all we can do is manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.
  • They create conflicts.
  • They are man made.
  • They are changing how we live and work.

Technology is creating new ways to communicate and make money from your writing. It’s enlarging the ways people buy and receive information and entertainment and forcing the publishing business to move beyond a 500-year-old technology.

The D Word

A one-word description of what technology has meant to media in the first decade of the century: downloading.

  • Napster and illegal downloading made Tower Records disappear.
  • Netflix, the Amazon of movies, helped drive Blockbuster into bankruptcy.
  • Amazon’s success with Kindle sparked the next publishing revolution.

Business has to keep adapting as new technology forces it to evolve before it can establish a stable business model.

Surfing the Waves of Change

As a writer, you will benefit from the growing opportunities to make money and reach more readers, but the price is embracing change as an opportunity to

  • adapt how you work
  • build your communities of fans, the collaborators you need to benefit from new media, and techies to keep you informed and provide the help you need
  • develop your creativity
  • be clear about the literary and publishing goals that keep you motivated

The world’s needs offer limitless possibilities for all writers. Using what you create to convey your vision, wisdom, and passion for change can lead us to a better future. Is there a better way to use your talent at this most amazing time in history?

If you have ideas on how writers can stay on their boards while surfing the waves of change heading toward us, please let me know so I can learn how to do these things better and share your ideas. 

Comments and questions welcome.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109 / San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU

We are all Egyptians: Writing on the Square

We Are All Egyptians: Writing on the Square

Egypt is in the square.

–author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on Charlie Rose

I just watched the most moving interview I’ve ever seen: Charlie Rose interviewing Thomas Friedman in Cairo about the revolution. It had tremendous immediacy and even more hope.

Predicting what will happen is impossible, but Friedman sees what’s happening as a growing, authentic, bottom-up revolution involving all parts of Egyptian society from the poor to the wealthy, demonstrating in Tahrir Square. No one is controlling the revolution, and no one knows where it’s going, but for that reason, it’s the most amazing, exciting event on the planet. The revolution is being televised around the world. If you’re not an oppressor, you’re in the square cheering for freedom, holding up humorous signs, helping ot prevent violence, and reading the newspaper the protesters publish.

After I wrote these words,  Mubarak stepped down! The people won! What a victory for Egypt and for humanity! It’s the fourth of July in Liberation Square. (Tahrir means liberation.) It will inspire oppressed people everywhere, including the United States.

If the revolution leads to democracy, it will be one of history’s greatest moments. Who knows what other countries will throw off their oppressors?

Overthrowing an autocrat who had been ruling for thirty years in eighteen days with relatively few casualties. Hope without government is better than government without hope, but let us hope that America’s example will help Egyptians make the transition to the democratic government for which they’re struggling. The military has vowed to help ensure an election that reflects the will of the people.

Watch the interview if you can, but prepare to shed a tear. Friedman quoted the president of Stanford Research Institute who said that “What comes from the top is dumb and slow; what comes from the bottom is smart and chaotic.” But it’s also authentic.

As Egypt reinvents itself, now is an opportunity for you to think about how you can liberate and reinvent yourself so you’re living in harmony with the only person you were born to be. If you have to, start your own revolution.

What’s coming up from your bottom? What revolution do you need in how you think about yourself, your life, and your future? People and institutions tend to change only when change is less painful than the status quo. But yo don’t have to wait until then.

Your revolution probably won’t have to have anything to do with politics, although everything, including doing nothing, is political. But it should have everything to do with being the best writer and author you can be by serving your readers as well as you can. That’s all you can do, but it’s enough.

The revolution has unleashed a torrent of repressed creativity. May it do as much for you. It’s time to join the Egyptians in the square, which, for the moment, is the Earth’s beating heart. Find the authentic center of your life and celebrate being alive.