Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Pledge to Read the Printed Word

I made a solemn pledge last year... A pledge to read the printed word.

I didn't swear the pledge in front of a row of witnesses, write it in my own warm blood, or chant it before the high altar of grave and earnest oaths, but it was serious and it was well intentioned. I would support the printed word in the face of emerging digital technologies and increasingly electronic print.

Then I bought an iPad in the autumn. Followed by a Kindle at Christmas.

I'd sold out. Betrayed the very cause I believed in. And no doubt helped contribute to the demise of the blessed book. Or so I thought.

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver (Creative Commons)
The printed word is important 

Online conversation would have us believe we're destined to live in a world of electronic words with little or no role for the age-old printed word. Given this, how soon will it be before there is no printed word? One day will we read online only? Will the world's libraries shrink or, worse, disappear? Will the book cease to exist?

Depressing, isn't it? But the printed word is too important to die out.

Sundays aren’t Sundays without a coffee and the weekend paper. Would we sit at the kitchen table, each family member lost in their individual, personalised, applicationised tablet or e-book reader?

A world without libraries is a world without mystery and enchantment, a world without sanctuary for the devoted and dedicated reader, a world without a place to fill our heads with hope that extraordinary life exists far beyond those four walls. Surely this could never be?

And reading in print form is a welcomed and refreshing change from staring bog-eyed at an electronic screen throughout the day... isn't it?

A world without books

A world without books is a travesty.

Books are the very essence of reading and of escapism - not just the words they carry on their fragile pages but the vivid dreams they bring to bear. I can readily escape into the depths of a book but I cannot hide within the hard skin of a plastic e-reader.

The book is tactile. It is comforting to the touch. Its weighty feel. Its supple cover. The crinkle of the pages as they're turned and the delightful smell that emits from those pages.

Whereas the Kindle is slim and sleek. Modern and purposeful. Cold and calculating in its determination to deliver the electronic word seamlessly to you. It is a different beast altogether.

Imagine entering a house where hundreds of books are on display. You learn about the person who owns these books. In a house where you browse the shelves for your own favourite reads, you find another's choices and understand a little something of their character or personality, likes and dislikes. An electronic reader doesn't tell you anything. A iPad might only say "look at me".

Now here's the rub.

I actually quite like my Kindle and I think my iPad is a revelation.

When I travel, the Kindle fits neatly in my backpack. It weighs less than a book yet can carry umpteen books inside. It's an easy and convenient read when sat on the beach, lying in my garden hammock, or squeezed up next to someone on the bus. It is a revolution of sorts.

My iPad is the essence of Apple. It is beautifully designed. It is technologically sublime. It is entertainment personified and it has its place in a corner of my world.

But neither will ever replace my passion for the common book.

I understand there's a place for the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, the Next Big Thing, but they won't - and can't - move me from my love of the printed word. I haven't lugged this precious cargo of books from country to continent, city to town, only to give it all up at the first sign of a fight.

Renewing my pledge

So we come back to the pledge...  to read the printed word.

The pledge supports the printed word in all its forms: newspapers, magazines, and of course, books.

The pledge thinks that reading on computers or phones or whatever is fine, but it cannot replace the experience of reading words printed on paper.

The pledge is a commitment to continuing to read the printed word in the digital era and beyond.

So I'm sorry, dear Kindle, dear iPad, dear Nook, I may enjoy your company but you're show stealers, not trusted lifelong friends. It's therefore time to renew my commitment to the printed word... Because I couldn't imagine a world without one, could you?

Do you have a Kindle? Do you prefer the printed word? Or do you enjoy both? And have you taken the pledge? 

Let me know what you think below.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Seeing Everything And Wanting It All

“We’ve just had 61 centimetres of snow in the last week… such great conditions.”

“Another amazing powder day today with more snow on the way Monday!”

“The slopes have received 32 feet of snow to date!”
It’s enough to make me groan out loud.

This year has been phenomenal for the folks in Whistler, British Columbia. Reports of fresh dumps of snow greet me every morning as I scroll through the bookmarked websites on my computer. As most of the northern hemisphere moves rapidly into Spring, the western limits of Canada continue to enjoy record snowfalls on the slopes.

The constantly falling snow has revealed a character flaw of mine on this journey:  I've become far too greedy.

I've seen remarkable things, had exhilarating experiences, been blessed with unique opportunities, simply done too much.

And I want all of it. In one place. Right on my doorstep.

Photo credit: TGillen (Creative Commons)

Opening a box of delights

When I hear of Whistler's recurring powder, when I see constant images of its white cloudy peaks and overflowing bowls, when I cast my mind back to carving across those expansive slopes, past deep snow drifts and along trail upon trail of the freshly fallen soft stuff prized by skiers and snowboarders alike, you can hardly blame me for missing it.

Sometimes it’s just too much to bear.

The problem with this journey is that every day presents new opportunities. Every waking minute produces extraordinary sights, smells and sounds not found before. Every virgin step delivers an exciting and often unexpected turn.

It's a problem because you want to keep every single one of these experiences close by and continue to experience them over and over and over.

When I left the UK in 2003, I opened a gigantic Pandora's box of encounters that I've not been able to close in the years since. When I lived less than two hours from Whistler, I discovered a love of skiing and snowboarding that I'd not known I had in me. I found a land of ski schools, snow ploughs, terrain parks and back country. And don't even let me get started on the apres ski.

I was privileged to be given a window into a world far removed from that of my homeland. And I liked what I saw.

But it wasn't to be forever.

No place like home

I like the place I currently call home. I wouldn't be here if I didn't.

With a 14km stretch of world-renowned beaches and pristine waterfront, I'd be mad to dislike it. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the sights, sounds and smells of an Australian beach - and how I'd struggle to ever live away from this beach side environment.

So believe me when I say "I really do like it here".

But the snow we get in Australia is akin to a sprinkling of talcum powder on a baby’s bottom – a fine dusting at best and of no comparison to the winter wonderland found in the world’s number one ski resort. It's not the same here and, at this time of year, I pine for all of that ski and snow.

The moral of this story is that I love what I have but I want what I left behind. That is the crux of the problem.

Working it out

There's no easy answer, no quick fix to apply. When moving abroad, you pick up your life and move far and wide, yet you also gain a bucket-load of living that no ordinary life can provide.

You see and do amazing things, meet inspiring people, live outstanding lives, but each time you move on, you're forced to give up a few of those extra special moments. It's the price that you pay. And sometimes the things you give up are harder to accept than the things that you gain.

I've been spoilt for choice. My brain has suffered a sensory overload of the life I've led elsewhere and the life I'm living here.

If only I could take a little piece of paradise from every corner of the globe, if only I could bring a little bit of each place back with me, I'd sure as hell start with 61 centimetres of fresh snow and a ski resort like Whistler.

The problem with seeing too much? You can't help but want it all.

Have you seen too much and want it all? What are you missing from a former life? What would you miss if you had to move on?

As always, feel free to leave your comments below.

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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Blogging the Way I Do

I'm always looking for ways to improve my blogging in the hope of making In Search of a Life Less Ordinary as good a read as it can be.

In writing and blogging circles, they apparently say that content is king. With that in mind, my aim is to produce a weekly dose of stimulating reading that covers this adventure of ours without you, the reader, falling asleep by the second paragraph. With any luck, you might even come back for more!

Recently I've noticed a worrying trend out there in the blogosphere. Some of my fellow writers are posting three or four times a week, sometimes even five, which has got me a little concerned. Is this good practice? Should I be posting as often as these guys? Am I therefore not serving my readership adequately?  

Am I simply not posting enough?

Photo credit: Alexander Baxevanis (Creative Commons)

If I've got something to say

My rule of thumb has always been to write a blog post when I feel I have something good or important to say. No exception. I don't want to share meaningless drivel and I see no point in describing the local news and weather conditions so I generally write when I have one of those 'aha' moments (which often occur in the unlikeliest of places).

Spending at least a couple of hours writing up the post, editing and polishing it off, I like to think I'm doing it slightly differently - by focusing on quality rather than quantity.

I may not get it right but I only want to share something that's worth sharing - and that's usually once a week. I hope that, given this weekly strategy of mine, every time I do share, you might actually be listening?

What other bloggers do

Other bloggers out there seem to post with greater frequency - and about almost everything and anything. It's also true that a lot of bloggers think that what we do is purely a numbers game - the more posts you put out, the better the return in terms of readers, page views and the blessed site 'hit'. But is this really the case?

I watch these bloggers trying to keep up with each other. They fill the gaps between extremely well-written posts with usually less-than-average content, almost as if they're trying to keep it going, fearful of the effect that a lack of posting will do to their stats.

I'm okay at this blogging malarkey and my readership is steady and loyal. When I post more often and write about the pie I ate for lunch or the haircut I had last week, it doesn't feel right and it misses wide of the mark. If I'm bored or lacking satisfaction when writing the post, how can I expect my readers not to run for the hills? I'd be right there with them!

Being different

I try to be different and work away from what is considered the norm - my journey in life is my example. I do still wonder if it's the wrong strategy - who knows what really turns people on and, equally, what turns them off.

For me, it's not about blogging frequency. Every time I publish a post, I'm aware that I'm representing myself and my writing. If posting more often then reduces that appeal, it's not for me.

If I'm not blown away by an idea or a suggestion, I'd rather pull back than continue to push on. It may all be at the expense of a number but, if numbers are our game, then what's the point of good writing?

What works for you as a blogger? How often do you post and why? 

As a reader, how often do you want to see me post on this blog? And, while we're at it, what do you want to see more of?

Please do share in the comments below.

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