Saturday, April 5, 2014

Seven Ways Writers Lives Have Changed

by Victoria M. Johnson


While attempting to declutter my office--to make room for more necessary things--I came across a box of cassette tapes of workshops given by some of my favorite authors.  There was a time when I did not get in my car unless I had a cassette to listen to while driving.  Times have certainly changed for me because now I get in my car for silence.  The beautiful, though temporary, silence.  That box of cassettes got me thinking about what else has changed for me as a writer.  I began writing in the early nineties--not that long ago, I know--but I work so very differently now.  See if you can relate to any of these obsolete activities.

1. I knew librarians not only at my branch but other branches, too.  I often asked for help locating material for a topic I was researching.  (Well, I still know my local librarian's names but they don't point me in the same direction they once did).  Back then, the source for research usually started with one of the big sets of encyclopedias.  Now libraries don't carry these bulky sets.


2. I typed on a typewriter that had ribbons that needed to be replaced when the ink ran dry.  We were poor (which is why I had an old typewriter) so I always rewound the ribbon and gave it a second, sometimes third, life before I replaced it.  Read fellow author Sheila Claydon's experience about typing her first manuscript.

3. I befriended the copy store staff.  I even had an account because I made so many copies they gave me a discount.  Don't forget we didn't have multifunction printers in our homes.  Copies of chapters for critique groups, contest entries, and manuscripts had to be made at a copy store.

4. I befriended post office staff.  In those days manuscripts had to be mailed along with an SASE (self-addressed-stamped-envelope).  The post office staff always inquired on what I was writing and mailing out, and I put one or two of them in my stories.

5. Another thing I did was wait for the telephone to ring.  Email wasn't invented yet so writers either got a rejection letter by mail or an offer by telephone.  This hopeful writer waited by the telephone, not the mailbox. 

6. I never had to think about book promotion.  This is a state I miss most about the early days of my writing career.  I just focused on writing.  What a novel concept.  

7. I had a drink.  If a rejection letter did arrive I would have a cocktail such as a frothy, salt-rimmed margarita and I called a dear friend for moral support and to commiserate with.  Oh, wait. I still do that.

Popular romance author Leigh Michaels shares the nostalgia of her first home office (clickhere).  How about you?  What has changed in your writing life since you first started writing?  Share in the comments below.

Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer.  She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots.  She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.  Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist).  Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride.  Visit Victoria's website at http://VictoriaMJohnson.com for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page at http://amzn.com/e/B0046CG6PQ or connect with her on Pinterest at: http://www.pinterest.com/ByVictoriaJ and Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ByVictoriaJ


20 comments:

  1. You've just detailed the past twenty years of my life, Victoria. I, too, started writing in the nineties (I was a late bloomer in as far as writing goes) and have gone through the same changes and adjustments. Nice post. I enjoyed looking back and seeing how far we've come.

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    1. Hi Sandy--
      Aha, I'm not the only one! I'm also looking forward to seeing what writer's lives will be like 20 years from now.
      Victoria--

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  2. Story of my life. I started out on a 1928 Underwood office typewriter I picked up for $10 at a flea market. Trying to make carbons...Ay ay ay, especially the way I type. And those SASEs. And hours spent at the library doing research on a subject, or looking for likely publishers. When my first book was accepted I sent it (to Canada) and it eventually came back as refused. I contacted the editor and she said, Oh, they do everything on the Internet now. I merely had to send an rtf copy. As the man said, too soon ve get old, too late ve get schmart.

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  3. Hi C.M.--
    Wow what a vintage typewriter you started on! Carbons... oh, yes. Did you click on Sheila's name above to read her experience with carbons? How terrible for you to mail an accepted manuscript to Canada (very expensive postage) only to have it refused. Good thing you hung in there and kept writing.
    Victoria--

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  4. I'm another 90s writer and, yes, this is all very familiar to me! Binder clips. I still have hundreds of binder clips from clipping the manuscript together for mailing. And the Tyvek envelopes from the post office.

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  5. Hi Gina--
    The binder clips! Yes, I used those, too. And I still have some Tyvek envelopes in my office :-) I'm so happy we can just email our manuscripts now.
    Victoria--

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  6. Enjoyed seeing your writing space. I thought I had a lot of books, but you've got me beat. I once depended on the library loan system. Now, of course, there is Google. Except for monthly writers meetings, I don't go to the library as often. I haven't been to the post office in a while because everything is done online, including buying stamps. Times have changed. I wonder what the future holds.

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    1. Hi Loretta--
      I am the same way with the post office, a place I once visited so often, I hardly go there anymore. I still frequent my library though. I, too, wonder what the future holds for us.
      Victoria--

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  7. Victoria, your blog was "right-on" for us who started writing with all the non-technical things we have today. What memories! Thanks for reminding us that even though writers still do the same things we did back then, we do them in different ways.

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    1. Hi Fran--
      I'm happy the post brought back memories for you :-)
      Victoria--

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  8. Victoria, I'm really dating myself, I'm afraid, but my writing goes back to the mid-80s. I could relate with every one of your points. The local mailman at the post office really got to know me--and would often ask about what I was sending "this time."

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    1. Hi Sydell--
      The eighties isn't that long ago :-) Thanks for stopping by and great to know you had similar relationships with your postal staff.
      Victoria--

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  9. What a hoot! Very early on, (early 90s) I was preparing for an interview with John Grisham and Tommy LaSorda for my University's newspaper. (They were both attending a silent auction to raise money for UVA baseball.) No internet - well, none to speak of - so I had to figure out how the two were connected - by picking up the phone to ask the baseball fans in my family what John Grisham had to do with baseball. They filled me in on his connection to Little League. Then I asked the Million Dollar Question: who is Tommy LaSorda? To this day, my husband cannot believe he's married me. :) Opposites attract.

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    1. OMG!! You really could have used google back then! On the bright side, at least you didn't ask anyone that question at the newspaper office :-) Your husband must really love you!
      Victoria--

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  10. Interesting article. There's been a lot of changes, many of them in the past few years. The ones I notice the most personally is that I used to wait for the mailman to bring acceptances or rejections. Now they usually come by phone or email. Also, with most publishers accepting electronic submissions I don't print out near as much and don't need as many filing cabinets.

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    1. Hi Vickie--
      Oh, good point. Isn't is nice we don't need as many filing cabinets? I also do not print out as much as I once did. Thank you for your comments.
      Victoria--

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  11. Ah, memory lane... my biggie, I still can't type, but it doesn't matter... machines do it all...

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    1. Hi Neringa--
      That's right. Authors can just talk into the voice recognition software or a voice recorder these days. These are a huge advantage for those who are typing-challenged :-)
      Victoria--

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  12. I have fond memories of the portable electric Smith-Corona I used in the 1980s and '90s. I did some good newspaper features and travel articles on that machine because it was slower and allowed some thinking to go with the typing. Today's computer is handy but tries to do my thinking for me and comes up with some weird stuff sometimes. I hate it when the computer thinks it is smarter than I am.

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  13. Hi Pat--
    Ha ha ha! That is definitely a vote for the typewriter over the computer. You raise a great point that we had time to think with the typewriter, versus fighting for superiority with our computer. Thanks Pat, for sharing your thoughts.
    Victoria--

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