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invention of the printing press
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Sea Change In Collective Writerly Mindset
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The nature of writing for the so-called commercial market changes over time.

Once, the craft of writing was reserved for a very few. Medieval peasants were unlettered. They were also fully occupied in eking out a living from work as an artisan, a craftsperson, or in some way involved with agriculture or seafaring trades. They would not have had time to read if they wanted to, nor could have afforded books if they wanted to read: books in the days before the printing press being hand-copied and quite expensive. Literacy, in those days, was considered a luxury.

Patronage or independent wealth became another phase after the invention of the printing press. This evolution stage afforded authors the luxury of boasting such things as that they took a half day deciding to put in an individual comma, and the second half day deciding to take it out.

This transited into the beginning of the phase of “popular” fiction, versus “literary” fiction: with such genres as the dime novel and the early romance fiction. Though that perhaps didn’t reach it’s height until some decades later, this kind of writing evolved to the point where some writers . . . now paid by the word . . . could boast of trying to up their fees by including as many “bang, bang, bang” shoot-em up passages as possible in a western or detective story.

One thing, however, that remained the same in all these various stages of the development of the craft of writing from my reading about it until very recently involved that by and large, nearly all writers found it far easier to write “long” than “short.”

Indeed, I believe it was Mark Twain who apologized to a correspondent by stating that if he had had more time he would have made the letter shorter.

Yet, nowadays, writers have . . . to a very large extent . . . adapted to “short form” writing such as demanded by web content.

I am certain that any reader of this article who is also a Street Article writer . . . and although I’m not 100% clear on how Street Articles work I’m pretty sure all participants are both readers and writers . . . are getting e-mails regularly from this source.

Among the things they encourage their writers to do is write an article of 450 or so words in 20 minutes, or “no more than 45 minutes.”

And, many of us do . . . and do it again and again. I wrote for quite some time for a well known content mill, and regularly cranked out usually two articles per just over an hour I spent on the writing there. And do the same thing here.

What writers need to recognize to give themselves the needed confidence boost that this kind of production justifies is: not so long ago, that kind of writing production would have been unthinkable.

This kind of situation does give rise for some writers to peculiar ways of stating things, grammatical errors that would be unacceptable if writing a software manual or a human resources policy manual, and that sort of thing.

Yet, overall, the material is understandable and of value to the readers, and from what I’ve gathered produced in short writing bursts with minimal revision before publication. At least for the most part.

That is a concept foreign to predecessors. What it signals is a sea change in the mindset of workmanlike, web content writers overall to a laser-beam focus on the topic at hand and building an article that stays on point beginning in the planning phase [which saves in the revision phase.]

Our writers ought not to take for granted how magnificent a change that is from predecessors in the craft, and ought to honor their own skills in learning to evolve and adapt with the needs of the new Internet medium.


Street Talk

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