Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

  • Six Reasons Why It’s Time for You To Write a Book!

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    snoopy_writing

    You’ve done all the right things to try and secure a job. You’ve honed your experience and qualifications to create a brand for yourself and retooled your old resumé into a pro-active working proposal. More, you’ve networked your socks off and beefed up your interviewing skills.  Yet – and yet, and yet you’re still unemployed. You may feel you have every right to be blue, but why waste the time?  As Confucious said, “To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”

    Why not take advantage of this hiatus and write about all those “right” things you’ve accomplished in your job search.  Writing a book can be a terrific new self-marketing tool.

    Here are six great reasons for you to hit the keyboard, start typing, or even take pen in hand:

    1. Share your expertise – Expand the experience that you’ve bulleted in your resumé. In a book you can include a story or two to bring that expertise to life and help others.

    2. Build Your Authority – Nothing beats authority like having a published book. You can become the go-to resource in your area of expertise.

    3. Separate yourself from the competition – Writing a book provides an opportunity for people to hear your thoughts and insights. Don’t be afraid to say what you really think. Be authentic and your voice will stand out.

    4. Expand your network – Too often we limit ourselves to who and what we know. Your book can introduce you to individuals who you never thought would be interested in your passions.

    5. Break down your protective/self-limiting walls – If you’ve never written a book before you, the experience will jolt you out of your comfort zone. Acting outside the box you’ve created for yourself is a great experience. As we’ve said before, “You have to step outside the batting cage to hit a home run.”

    6. Change your life – Even though you began with the idea of sharing your expertise with the world, the very act of writing is introspective. As you review what you’ve done and strategies you’ve designed, you may come up with a brand new idea of what you’d like to do next!

    And the best part about writing a book is that you don’t need to wait for someone to read your resumé, to invite you to an interview, or for that next networking event. You can “Just Start!”

    Happy Thanksgiving, and we look forward to seeing your name in print.

  • 6 Tips To Take Charge of Your Brand in These Hyper-Connected Times. Don’t Let Yours Suffer the Humiliation of Richard III’s

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    Yes, the former King of England’s skeleton was recently discovered in a shallow, unmarked grave under a modern parking lot. Humiliating as that is, the scariest part of this story may be that the King’s prolonged royal fall was due, in large part, to just one man, William Shakespeare. The great playwright wrote in his history play, Richard III, that Richard personally ordered the killing of two Princes, his 9 and 12-year old nephews, in the Tower of London to clear his way to the throne. Despite the fact that this was never proven, in point the King was never charged, Shakespeare’s villainous label has stuck for more than 500 years.

    Shakespeare said, “All the World’s a Stage,” and he used this platform to celebrate or skewer many brands. This would be impossible for one man to do in today’s totally networked culture. Technology has created a seismic shift in the ways in which information and opinion are conveyed. Social media has created access to vast amounts of information, producing unprecedented transparency. It’s an opportunity for you to think in terms of how best to stage your brand for maximum benefit.

    We call this Brandraising (a term we learned several years ago from one of our favorite blogs, The Duck Call), and the following tips will help you raise your brand:

    1. Establish Your Character, Originality and Authenticity.

    2. Identify and Showcase Your Skills and Talents – the gifts, passions, interests and natural aptitudes you are born with, which are part of your essential make-up, and those you’ve learned through experience.

    3. Let Your Voice Be Heard and Seen. In this multi-media world you need to create a spoken, written, and visual message, which is relevant and consistent. Each and every word and image counts. It’s your story, your brand, your career and your life. No one is better equipped to capture the essential details than you.

    Great learning tools:

    The Spoken Word – This workshop “Shall I compare thee to a newscast spot?” on how to create one minute radio spots by Phyllis Fletcher and Robert Smith from New Public Radio will help you fine tune your storytelling through the spoken word. You will learn about the importance of your voice – the sound, cadence, pauses and inflections – to achieve high impact particularity for all your non-visual communications.

    The Written Word – Read E.B.White and William Strunk, Jr.’s The Elements of Style, a tiny but venerable guide, which is just as valuable today as when it was when first published in 1919.  The guide begins with sixty-three words that could change your world of writing: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his [her] sentences short, or that he [she]  avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

    Picture It – Pictures, logos, videos and information graphics tell your story – your brand – in much less than a thousand words. There are many free online how-to articles about designing effective logos, choosing your social media photos, and creating videos to engage your audience. YouTube, for example, has some great tutorials for creating digital stories, and a section within YouTube (sponsored by Google and American Express) that allows a small business to create digital stories with professional-quality video, replete with graphics, editing, and sound.

    4. Review, Edit, Rewrite. Always remember that, like a traditional on-the-ground network, your virtual brandraising network needs nurturing and on-going maintenance. Keep it fresh and up-to-date. If you limit your postings to once a year or even once a month, it connotes a certain lack of interest and commitment or, even worse, that you really don’t know what you are doing!

    5. Listen to Your Critics. Once you post what you consider a wise or erudite tidbit, be open to feedback – both positive and negative. That interchange or exchange of information and insights is the real value added – the way we learn.

    6. Stay Ahead of the Message. Know who you are online. If you think you control your online fate by not participating in any Social Media Networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, you must think again. Even better, try popping your name into Google’s search window.

    And, while you’re in a pro-active mode, check out these classic tips in How To Be Remembered from fellow blogger Liza Barone.

     

  • How to Frame Your Career So Your Resume Does Not Read Like an Obituary

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    Your resume is your story. To bring it to life you must maximize your focus, relevancy, particularity – and, as always, your authenticity. Keep in mind Ernest Hemingway’s wisdom: “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

    I’ve recently read three unique pieces with key insights for this task.

    The first is NY Times‘ columnist, David Brooks’, The Power of the Particular.” Brooks describes a Bruce Springtseen concert he attended in Spain,

    “The oddest moment came mid-concert when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, ‘I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!’”

    “My best theory,” Brooks says, “is this: When we are children, we invent these detailed imaginary worlds that the child psychologists call ‘paracosms.’ These landscapes, sometimes complete with imaginary beasts, heroes and laws, help us orient ourselves in reality. They are structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world.”

    “We carry this need for paracosms into adulthood. It’s a paradox that the artists who have the widest global purchase are also the ones who have created the most local and distinctive story landscapes. Millions of people around the world are ferociously attached to Tupac Shakur’s version of Compton or J.K. Rowling’s version of a British boarding school or Downton Abbey’s or Brideshead Revisited’s version of an Edwardian estate… Millions of people know the contours of these remote landscapes, their typical characters, story lines, corruptions and challenges. If you build a passionate and highly localized moral landscape, people will come.”

    “It makes you appreciate the tremendous power of particularity. If your identity is formed by hard boundaries, if you come from a specific place, if you embody a distinct musical tradition, if your concerns are expressed through a specific paracosm, you are going to have more depth and definition than you are if you grew up in the far-flung networks of pluralism and eclecticism, surfing from one spot to the next, sampling one style then the next, your identity formed by soft boundaries, or none at all.”

    ***************************************************************

    “Shall I compare thee to a newscast spot?”

    This workshop on how to create one minute radio spots by Phyllis Fletcher and Robert Smith from New Public Radio helps us fine tune other aspects of our storytelling to achieve high impact particularity. You can tell a lot about yourself over a great deal of time, but if you need to capture someone’s attention quickly, you need to capture what counts in a minute.

    Their tips to achieve compelling brevity are:

    • Focus on one subject [in this case it's you].
    • Use vivid language and concrete examples.
    • And if you can get away with it, make sure there’s a turn in the piece. (Poets call it the volta, a little shift in tone. A question is answered. A problem is solved. Perfect for news [of what you can do as demonstrated by what you have done].

    Now we know that particularity and brevity are important, but they are meaningless without authenticity and relevance.

    ***************************************************************

    Martin Zwilling writes in Forbes about John B. Montgomery’s new book, “Great From the Start,” which highlights Mark Zawacki’s  five rules of relevancy.  Zawacki’s rules, while focused on business startups are equally apt for the startup of your new life:

    1. A startup needs to be relevant and stay relevant.
    2. A startup needs to find a voice relevant to its ecosystem.
    3. A startup must gain traction.
    4. A startup must form partnerships and alliances within its ecosystem. 
    5. A startup must maintain a laser focus.

     

    You’re not ready for a tombstone yet, so chuck that old resume and create a dynamic and vital new blueprint for the next stage of your life.

     

     

  • Skill: How to Rethink, Redefine and Reimagine It

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    Reading Penelope Trunk’s “Brazen Careerist,” a fascinating blog offering “Advice at the Intersection of Work and Life, I discovered her posting on, “How to Be Lost with Panache.”

    Trunk offers 3 valuable tips to overcome feeling lost – be it in work or one’s life: One is to “Focus on transition points. Do a little each day;” a second is to “Risk standing out and being weird;” but, to me, her greatest and most original tip is to “Find beauty in the process of being lost.”

    Trunk found beauty in an article by Jerry Saltz, art columnist for New York magazine. Grand Tour is Saltz’s roundup about 19 of his favorite paintings in New York. Trunk notes that the captions Saltz creates for these, his favorites, are “phenomenal.” For this Malevich painting, for example, he writes, “Like an explosion in an airplane factory, the Cubo-Futurist masterpiece depicts gleaming robot peasants in curved metallic shards. The composition of snowdrifts, houses, and people spirals energetically toward a distant sled-puller, and recalls the artist’s childhood—a way of life that predated the Industrial Revolution and outlasted the Russian one.”

    Kazimir Malevich, "Morning in the Village After Snowstorm" (1912)

    Trunk exclaims, “Who has been more poetic about Malevich? Ever? When you are lost is when you need art most.”

    Of Caravaggio’s painting, The Denial of Saint Peter (circa 1610), Saltz writes, “Notice the dramatically gesturing figures, stark lighting, compact cropping, and complex moments of internal and external emotions. That is how Caravaggio essentially foreshadowed [in the early 17th Century] modern filmmaking.”

    Perhaps Salz’s most poignant comment on skill (or more accurately lack thereof) is related to Jackson Pollock. Referring to Pollack’s “Room of Eight Paintings” at MoMA, Saltz says, “Looking at these canvases (including One: Number 31, 1950), installed chronologically, reminds me that few artists were less naturally talented than Pollock. That he virtually willed himself to newness, deploying something that had been there since the caves—the drip…”

    Saltz defends his critical perspective: “I don’t look for skill in art… Skill has nothing to do with technical proficiency… I’m interested in people who rethink skill, who redefine or reimagine it: an engineer, say, who builds rockets from rocks.”

    While it takes skill to live with joy and meaning, it takes even more skill to rethink, redefine and reimagine our lives when we veer off path or become totally lost.  Trunk is brave enough to admit when she is lost and perspicacious enough to help us get our bearings by observing the inventiveness of artists such as Jackson Pollack, who “willed himself to newness” by building masterpieces drip by drip.

  • Beware When Your Resumé Looks Like Your Passport: the Date Stamps Cover Where You’ve Been But Not Where You Want to Go or Why?

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    Courtesy of Mark Ashley at www.upgradetravelbetter.com

    Resumés do a great job telling people where you worked and what you have accomplished.  Like passports, they play a role as you venture forward. In some jobs where the HR department rules, they are required. But – and this is a big BUT – they are all about your past. One career consultant, Joshua Waldman, even calls them “obituaries!”

    As we’ve discussed before, traditional resumés need to be replaced by “working resumés.” You need to create a document that captures the value you bring to the future. How will you solve the organization’s problems in ways that are unique, innovative, practical and sustainable?

    Employers – just look at BP, for example – are not looking for a temporary fix. Equally important to how is the why you wish to solve the problem.  Perfection without passion is not going to get you very far. Again, using BP as an example, Tony Hayward, CEO at the time of rig explosion and subsequent horrific oil leak had stellar credentials. His past accomplishments looked great on paper but a critical component was missing: compassion.  Without a sense of empathy for the victims or the environment, all his skills came to naught. His replacement, Bob Dudley, is equally talented and has that extra dose of compassion that allows him to express not only how he is going to solve the problem but why and that makes him far more valuable to BP today than the former CEO.

    But passion is also a critical factor in non-Fortune 500 boardrooms. Last month, Alastair Macaulay published a dance review in the NY Times in which he  critiqued Canadian choreographer-dancer Paul-André Fortier ‘s 30-minute solo, “30 x 30,” performed at noon each day for 30 consecutive days in the open air at 1 New York Plaza.

    Macaulay writes,

    “His dancing is site-specific and multidirectional. He faces, by turns, up past the surrounding buildings to the sky, across to New York Harbor on the horizon, down to the ground, and out to the more immediate vicinity, which now and then includes members of the audience, with whom he makes brief eye contact.

    “There’s a constant contrast between the sleek lines of the shapes and lines he demonstrates and the gaunt, severe tension of his face and hands. His energy is always contained; he performs with the distanced air of a mime artist or a teacher; and there’s no particular pleasure to be had from his physical tone.

    “Coolly he shows us one movement idea after another. Most of them are fairly interesting or agreeable. …Frequently he implies some kind of mime content, so that I found myself labeling one section ‘Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses,’ which made the next passage, in which he seemed to hurl a few curses at the financial district, slightly more interesting. But the carefully measured tone of Mr. Fortier’s movements stopped any of this from having any force or from being absorbing. His quality of teacherly reserve places a curious distance between his solo and himself. It’s as if he were presenting something in which he didn’t quite believe but feels ought to impress us anyway.”

    That last line, “presenting something in which he didn’t quite believe but feels ought to impress us anyway,” is devastating!  According to this trusted dance critic, Fortier has the skill required but not the passion necessary to transport audiences to other realms – real and imaginary. Does this sound like your resumé? We hope not.

    Meshing our work and our passions is key to making our lives works of art.

    Courtesy of z_zozole

  • Frolicking Whales, A 76+ Year-Old Surfer (Body not Web) and Digital Storytelling: Soup to Nuts

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    I encountered a terrific – and comprehensive – Digital Storytelling resource when I was searching for help on how to best capture an extraordinary a day at the beach. This is not just any compilation of video snippets. What began as a peaceful interlude on a beautiful Maine surfers’ beach turned into a virtual bombardment of amazing images.

    Scanning the horizon for ships, sailboats or a rogue wave or two as we are wont to do when we know our wave pounding kins’ heads are all above water, the beach chair bunch (including me) spotted a whale a few hundred yards off shore. Cruising north, he or she and kept vaulting out of the water in beautiful arcs, daring us to try and capture the image. This behemoth had an uncanny way of taunting us.

    Second stunning sighting was of a different kind of leviathan – an ancient body surfer. I say ancient because she was an 76+ year-old woman, not too sylphlike, in a day-glo green, Pucci print swim suit. She had some difficulty walking through the surf, but when she spotted a big enough wave, she turned and threw herself into the curl with a grace that made the whale look like an out-of-control beach ball.

    Unlike the aforesaid whale, who cruised out of sight as soon as it had struck its tantalizing chord, the surfer rode the waves for hours. Her cap of white hair caught in the roiling foam rendered her invisible until her day-glo self glided up on the shore.

    All of this is my long-winded way of saying how valuable I found this Digital Storytelling resource. The lengthy tutorial consists of four parts:

    1. Finding your story
    2. Telling your story
    3. Creating the piece
    4. Sharing the work

    I am fortunate because my story found me but the “telling,” visual “creating,” and “sharing” were in drastic need of help.

    This is a resource you’ll want to turn to time and time again as you strive to capture your stories, your work and, indeed, your life.

  • The Heart of Innovation: Blogging from the Road

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    Courtesy of de svitalsky at ToonPool.com

    On the road the next few days and taking advantage of hospitable cafés, coffee houses and – perhaps my favorite – local diners. Lest anyone question the transient nature of my or their office, I defend the possibilities with Mitch Ditkoff’s great post, “Why Creative People Work in Cafés,” which is a must read for blogging road warriors. Then, too, remember Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast!”

    Life in motion (avec croissants or eggs over easy with hash browns, and, of course café) can be a good thing!

  • The Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson’s Brilliant Cover Letter

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    In my last post I mentioned how it took Henri Matisse eight years of almost continual, major reworking to complete his painting, Bathers by a River, and today I want to point out how the same excruciating reworking is inherent in the creative writing process, as well.

    Good writing is a craft as well as an art. Job seekers need to learn how to best capture and articulate their unique attributes because employers, who are looking for the cream of the crop, need to be able to see who we are and what we are capable of doing for them.

    As visual artists learn from Matisse, writers can also learn from those who have mastered the challenge. Writing is hard work. Meaningful prose does not come trippingly off the tongue, and job seekers need to balance their skills, experience and passion to create a brilliant, attention-grabbing cover letter.

    Peggy Noonan’s illuminating Wall Street Journal article, A Cold Man’s Warm Words, about the vicissitudes Thomas Jefferson suffered whilst lead writer on the Declaration of Independence provide valuable lessons about the humility and statesmanship required in what was no doubt the most challenging writing assignment of his life.

    Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at work on the Declaration of Independence

    Noonan writes:

    “It was July 1, 2 ,3 and 4, 1776, in the State House in Philadelphia. America was being born. The Continental Congress was reviewing and editing the language of the proposed Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson, its primary author, was suffering the death of a thousand cuts.

    “The beginning of the Declaration had a calm stateliness that signaled, subtly, that something huge is happening: ‘When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separate.’ This gave a tone of moral modesty to an act, revolution, that is not a modest one. And it was an interesting modesty, expressing respect for the opinion of the world while assuming the whole world was watching.

    “The second paragraph will, literally, live forever in the history of man. It still catches the throat: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’

    “What followed was a list of grievances that made the case for separation from the mother country, and this part was fiery. Jefferson was a cold man who wrote with great feeling. He trained his eyes on the depredations of King George III: ‘He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns. . . . He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compete the work of death, desolation and tyranny . . .’

    “Members of the Congress read and reread, and the cutting commenced. Sometimes they cooled Jefferson down. He wrote that the king ‘suffered the administration of justice totally to cease in some of these states.’ They made it simpler: ‘He has obstructed the Administration of Justice.’

    “For Thomas Jefferson it became a painful ordeal, as change after change was called for and approximately a quarter of what he had written was cut entirely. I quote from the historian David McCullough‘s “John Adams,” as I did last year at this time, because everything’s there. ‘Jefferson looked on in silence. Mr. McCullough notes that there is no record that he uttered a word in protest or in defense of what he’d written. Benjamin Franklin, sitting nearby, comforted him: Edits often reduce things to their essence, don’t fret.’” [Be sure to read all of Noonan's article to see some of Jefferson's most poignant words which were cut.]

    Noonan notes, “It hurt Thomas Jefferson to see these words removed from his great document. And we know something about how he viewed his life, his own essence and meaning, from the words he directed that would, a half-century after 1776, be cut onto his tombstone. The first word after his name is ‘Author.’”

    We writers, like Jefferson, writing for our lives if not our country’s, need to reach a point where we realize we have done the best we possibly can and let go. Our words, after all, are validated by our readers. King George III got the point and future employers will get ours, as well. That does not mean we will automatically get the job; remember how many years it took for the Colonial Army to get the job done – but in the end they did!

  • Aging: Pithy Perspectives from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Beyond

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    The Wizard of Oz's Glynda

    “Age Doesn’t Matter Unless You’re a Cheese!” is the pungent observation from actress, Billie Burke, perhaps most famous for her role as Glynda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz.

    In their book by the same title, authors Kathryn and Ross Petras, have collected such provocative insights and more in what they call their “manual for living well to celebrate the wisdom and perspective that so often go hand in hand with experience.”

    Their nuggets come from 350 individuals who are: “1.Over sixty; and 2.Have something to say.” The list of luminaries included is impressive and diverse; it is well worth a read.

    A second great read is Roger Rosenblatt’s, Rules on Aging: A Wry and Witty Guide to Life.

    Roger Rosenblatt, acclaimed essayist and NewsHour with Jim Lehrer regular contributor, boldly offers – not your standard How-to’s seven or even ten easy steps – but a “whopping 56 rules for wisely navigating life into your golden years.”

    Rosenblatt describes his brief treatise (a mere 140 pages) as a “little guide intended for people who wish to age successfully, or at all.” He adds that “growing older is as much an art as it is a science, and it requires fewer things to do than not to do.”

    His advice on everything from party etiquette to office politics (“Never work for anyone more insecure than yourself”) is valuable reading for any one at any age. In fact one reviewer commented: ” A person of any age can profit from it. Perhaps a better title would have been; ‘Rules That Give You a Fighting Chance to Reach Old Age Without Succumbing to Stress or Having Someone Kill You.’”

    Rule #31 is particularly pertinent in this regard: “Do not attempt to improve people, especially when you know it will help.” Rosenblatt, reflecting back to Rule #2  adds: “Nobody is thinking of you – unless you tell them about their faults. Then you may be sure that they are thinking about you. They are thinking of killing you.”

    This is a must read for anyone who has a tendency to take themselves too seriously!

  • To Be or Not To Be? Hamlet’s Blackberry

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    William Powers’ new book, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age is part fun, philosophical musings and part how to “disconnect ourselves from digital overload.”

    Unfortunately, Powers spends way too much time on the how to disconnect and not nearly enough on the philosophical musings. We all know how addicted too many of us our to our digital gadgets. If anything, it’s more difficult to get away from the dire warnings about how technology is ruining our lives, our relationships, our brains and turning everything but our thumbs tubby from lack of physical exercise. We do not need another treatise on that, but clearly we can use more of Powers’ witty, historical musings. Every review I’ve read notes how the reader picked up the book because he or she was intrigued by the title. Let’s be clear, the part of the title that appeals is to the left of the colon – “Hamlet’s Blackberry.” I have not read one review or spoken to one person who snatched up the book because it had such a gripping subtitle!

    Yes, it is good to assess whether we might have reached a point where the technology that was supposed to give us greater control is actually controlling us. And to his credit, Powers is not pooh poohing all technology or saying that we should disconnect from everything. The best parts of this book are those where Powers demonstrates – through seven ancient and modern philosophers – how new technologies have provoked similar fears throughout history. Plato, Seneca, Shakespeare and Gutenberg, for example, struggled with new-found gadgets. Even Ben Franklin, that wizard of invention, we learn had his moments of doubt!

    The “Hamlet’s Blackberry” (of the title) is what was called a writing table or table book and consisted of some plaster-covered pages bound in a pocket-sized book. A metal stylus came with it and was used to write down notes or lists. Shakespeare could sponge off the pages like a slate and use them over and over again.

    Ahhh, but where for art thou, quill pen? Would the end have been as tragic if Romeo and Juliet had had cell phones? Worst of all, how many of Shakespeare’s masterpieces might we have lost, if the Bard could have erased them from his Elizabethan Blackberry?

    This, I believe, is Powers’ message (overworked though it might be): there is a time to connect and a time to disconnect , and a reasonable person should know the difference.

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