Thousands of stamps covered the walls. Upper case letters, lower case letters, symbols, numbers. I entered the print shop and left the millennium behind. I was in the 1800s and saw the beauty of the print shop. It was glorious. I was transported. The docent kindly showed me around, explaining the history and offering print examples. She explained that in the 1890s this print shop printed four billion subscriptions a day and four billion patterns per day. Amazing! How much simpler printing has become in our time. Four billion people can read a post in seconds. Four billion. It wouldn’t take all day to type up. In fact, what I’m typing here might take one person an entire morning to organize in a print shop in the 1800s. It’s taking me just a matter of minutes.
The letters for the printing had to be put in order of wording, upside down and backwards. They were fed into a machine, and then after printing the words were dismembered and put back into their places. The order was not alphabetical, and – oddly enough – not like a QWERTY keyboard. The printers had a different method that worked for them. This would take all day.
Now, a Tweet can go out in seconds. In fact, there goes another one.
The development of the internet is amazing, especially to see how much progress has been made. Yet, it is also disheartening. All the time it took to carefully re-member words meant the words were remembered easier – and that they were, perhaps, more impactful. The words were also carefully chosen before being distributed to the masses. The impact of the word was considered. Today words are posted without a second thought. Print is an art that is disappearing. I’ve been eyeing typewriters lately, because – like rotary phones – they will one day disappear and the next generation will look at us strangely when we mention typewriters – perhaps the same way that I looked at my folks when they talked about eight tracks. I think it is important to recognize how technology has evolved but also to value the word. As someone who deals with the word (lowercase) and Word (upper case – how long would that have taken the printer?) I put great value on words. My words don’t always come out correctly, but they are mine. I apologize when they hurt, I rejoice when they are helpful and compassionate – especially when someone reads the words and can relate, and maybe even say, “That’s exactly what I think – but couldn’t put it into words!” Those are the moments writers wait for (im)patiently.
As I’ve been attempting to improve my writing and learn about the writing process I have been submitting some pieces to be published. As many writers learn, publishing isn’t easy. I think every (or most) writers think, “Writing is difficult. I’ll submit a few, and then someone will magically read my words and they will be published!” whether for notoriety sake or something else. I’ve been to writers’ conferences that have explained the long, strenuous process of writing and publishing, and the experts always stress how hard it is to be published. “Of course it is!” writers think. “I’ll be rejected a couple times, then I’ll hit my big break!” It is almost like we know our writings will be rejected a couple times, but not over and over. And over. And over.
I think I’m in my fifth or sixth “over” right now. But I found the silver lining in the cloud of word raindrops falling down (hm. And I wonder why I haven’t been published yet? Terrible metaphors might be the answer). I recognize that at least the words I’m typing for now are still my words. Once someone begins publishing, they become someone else’s words, as well. The editor’s, the publisher’s, and others. It may not change the intent, or the core meaning, but to sell a book, to sell an article, you have to sound a certain way, and your writing changes. A good editor and a good publisher will keep your essence, but I’m sure there are those out there who don’t, too.
So, I’ll keep submitting material, because the goal for me is to improve, not to be a published author. This isn’t a publishing plea – because if I wanted to publish words, there are plenty of self-publishing options. For me, that’s not where I’m headed. Instead, it is about finding the meaning behind my words – what is it I most want to express? What do I want heard? What is the impact I want to make? And I turn that question to you – what impact will you make? How we make impacts is always changing – through print, through voice, through blogs and Tweets. The medium isn’t as important as the message, but sometimes the medium can inspire our message.