Thursday, March 5, 2015

February 2015: 11th Anniversary Letter

     It has been 11 years of this e-letter and almost 13 for writing every day. As I have written almost every year, it has been a good thing. It has even been a good transformational process. It forces clearer and more organized thinking. Surprisingly, my proofreading skills are still lacking and perhaps lacking big-time.
     The Habit of Writing: It has, indeed, been 11 years of this e-letter and almost 13 for writing every day. Well that is until late last year that is.
     Honestly, the daily writing has become a bit of a struggle since I started my full time faculty position. This seems odd because, I theoretically have more free time and thus should have no problem writing.
     Yes, I have free time. The classroom time is set and fixed. It amounts to about 12 hours of in class time. On a 40 hour work week, that leaves 28 hours of free time. On a 60 hour work week, which is more the norm these days, that leaves 48 hours of free time. Anyone that has ever taught understands the fallacy of this arithmetic. The reality is that each hour of class time, requires or generates 2 hours outside the class. That bumps the 12 hour teaching load up to 36 hours. The four hours get used for administrative meetings and such. This is why they call teaching 12 credit hours a full time load.
     OK then. I am working full time. Big whoopee. I should still be able to make and find time to write. Shouldn’t I? People make time for what is important to them. That much is a universal almost by definition. If it is really important to you, you will do it. If you are not doing it and complaining about not having time to do it, then it must not be something you really want. That is the logic.
     Case in point, while working at Colgate-Palmolive and Newell Rubbermaid, I managed to write each and every day. I would have to say that those corporate jobs were more demanding than my current faculty position. How was I able to do that?
     First, let’s consider the following. There was a Zig Ziglar quote on Facebook this week. It is right to the point:

Motivation gets you going
and habit gets you there.
     Motivation by itself is not enough. Back in my corporate days, I developed a writing habit. I did it first thing in the morning. I would get up early and do my daily writing with my first cup of coffee. It worked. It worked if my office was in Manhattan. I would take the early train, head to a Starbucks by the office, and write. It worked in Oak Brook. I would get to the office early having gotten a coffee en route and write.
      In the days of unemployment, consulting, and adjunct teaching, I still had a good writing habit. It shifted a bit though. Writing became the last task of the day. I still did but instead of at the crack of dawn, it was more like at the stroke of 10 pm.
     With the return to one full time job instead of three or four part-time ones, my life is more predictably scheduled and thus I should be better able to establish a habit. This has not been the case. My first thing in the morning over that first cup of coffee activity has become reading the Wall Street Journal (read more about this in the next section). It is and indispensible part of the job. As a professor in a business school, it is important to be on top of what is happening in the world of business and be able to relate what is being taught in the classroom to what is happening in the real world. For example, we were covering the role of government while the US was deciding on the Net Neutrality issue. Perfect. The point here is that reading the journal has taken over the crack of dawn time slot.
     Well that still leaves the end of day time slot. With the new job has come a resumption of getting up early. Thus, by 10 pm, I am simply running out of gas. There is a reason the best writers in the world tend to write first thing in the day. They simply have more energy and clarity of thought.
     On top of this, I decided to tackle serious subjects in my December and January letters which by the way are still in draft form in cloud storage. In December, I had this idea of tackling looking at both or all sides in the Ferguson, MO what is going on with race relations in this country. It is a great topic but it is also a deep and controversial subject. It is controversial because most folks have a point of view, sincerely believe that point of view is unequivocally, axiomatically, correct and anyone who disagrees is a moron. This is not an easy thing to write about from the middle. You are wrong to both sides and are basically just Shemp Howard saying “Gentlemen, gentlemen” only to by punched simultaneously on both sides of the face (I did try to find a photo of this on internet).
     Basically, I need to retrench, retool, and establish a new habit. There will be more to follow on this I am sure in subsequent blogs and letters on objective setting and time and task management. (Yes, I know, I should just read and follow my previous bloggy bits on these topics.)
     Good writing: This is the section of my anniversary letter where I traditionally comment on good writing i.e. not mine.
     Having taken the job at North Park University’s School of Business, I have gotten into reading the Wall Street Journal every day. We get at a copy at the office. I started reading that copy but I was not on campus every day. Others also wanted to read the paper, so it was not always available.
     In this age of newspapers being something much less than they were because of the internet, the Journal did it the right way. Because they are the official newspaper of American business, they were able to charge for their internet content. It is just a business expense for their reader base. Basically, I would have just read it online but for this.
     I decided to explore getting a subscription. There were two basic subscriptions: digital only and both print and digital. While I was looking at the pricing and balking at the rates, I notice they had exclusive offers for students and educators. This appealed to me. For $200, I got two years of home delivery and digital access. That comes to $1.92 a week or approximately 32¢ an issue. I signed up.
     The writing in the Journal is generally good. In most of the articles, it is clear and informative. Where it shines, is in the feature articles especially when there are guest notables or professors. Recently, I have read one of each.
     In the February 5, 2015 edition of the paper, Paula Marantz Cohen wrote a lovely Opinion piece titled “Queen for a day no more.” “Ms. Cohen is an English professor and dean of the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University in Philadelphia.” She wrote about a beautiful piece about Harold’s Bridal Shop in New Haven, CT that recently closed its doors after Harold’s sister in-law and long time soul of the place sales lady, Georgianna DiGioia, who passed away last year at the age of 98.
Harold Pellegrino had started the shop when he returned from World War II. His assumption was that there were two things people would do when they got back from the war: buy a house and get married. He opted for the bridal trade over real estate. Georgianna loved her work because it allowed her to contribute to the most important moments in the lives of her neighbors. Like her name DiGioia, her work in the shop gave her and others joy.
     Professor Marantz painted a lovely scene of a single proprietor business in this big box, online, chain store era we live in.
     Another wonderful piece was in the February 26, 2015 edition by the humorist Dave Barry: “The Greatest (Party) Generation.” Dave Barry is a great humorist. I used to love to read his column every Sunday in the Parade magazine that came with the Detroit Free Press. I may have even bought a book on fatherhood by him back in the 1980s.
     This article in the Wall Street Journal is “Excerpted from Mr. Barry’s latest book, ‘Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster),’ to be published on March 3 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.” It is also a nostalgic piece about his parents, my parents, generation. He expounds on the kinds of house or cocktail parties they used to throw with greater frequency and verve than the ensuing generations. Here is an excerpt:

And it wasn’t just cigarettes and alcohol they didn’t worry about. They also didn’t worry that there might be harmful chemicals in the water that they drank right from the tap. They didn’t worry that if they threw their trash into the wrong receptacle, they were killing baby polar bears and hastening the extinction of the human race. They didn’t worry about consuming trans fats, gluten, fructose, and all the other food components now considered so dangerous they could be used to rob a bank (“Give him the money! He’s got gluten!”).
     I do believe I am trying to write like both of these wonderful authors.
     How do I write? In previous years, I have commented that I have handwritten my daily writing. This was true for the first several years I was writing this letter. As the theme for the monthly letter emerged somewhere in the last third of the month, I would edit and type up the daily writing into the letter.
      In 2009, I put all the original writing into a blog, This Side of Fifty, and things seemed to change. I had experimented with typing my daily writing before then, but the frequency began to increase at this point. Shortly thereafter, probably in 2010, I procured an iPad2 with a Zagg keyboard. Soon, I was typing everything and handwriting became passé. These days, I type 100% of my daily writing into Apple’s Pages word processor or MS Word. In either case they are saved in either the iCloud or so that I can access them from any device connected to the internet.
      While all of this is very cool and kinda high tech, I do miss the handwriting. There is something to be said for the act of handwriting. There is an expressiveness to it that cannot be matched on the keyboard. Yet, as nice as that might be, handwritten work must then be typed turn it into a blog post or e-letter. They time savings of writing on a keyboard surpasses the pleasure gained by handwriting.
     Handwriting, and I am talking about cursive handwriting versus printing, may become a lost art. It is no longer universally taught. I did not no this. I became aware of it when students came up to me and said they could not read what I had handwritten on their exams. I assumed it was because my handwriting was too sloppy but that was not the case. They said they could not read cursive handwriting. I asked how that could be and then learned that they had never learned cursive writing. I was kind of surprised more than shocked. Having learned this, I then noticed that on essay parts of exams more and more students were printing rather than handwriting their responses. I realized that handwriting is not necessary or relevant any more. One does not need both printing and handwriting for the amount of manual writing we do these days. As printing is traditionally taught first, cursive handwriting has become redundant and unnecessary.
      According to an August 12, 2013 USA Today article, Is cursive's day in classroom done?, “at least 41 states do not require public schools to teach cursive reading or writing.” This is primarily due to cursive writing not being in the new Common Core requirements. Is this a big deal? Eh… maybe yes, probably not.
      A little research showed that cursive writing was formalized in the US in the mid-1800s by one Pratt Rogers Spencer. It became the popular style of penmanship taught in the US until 1925. The Ford Motor Company and Coca-Cola logos are written in what is known as the Spencerian Script.
      Spencerian Script was quickly replaced by the script developed by one Austin Palmer in the late 1800s. He published a book in 1894, Palmer’s Guide to Business Writing. It quickly became the standard which was taught in all schools until, apparently, recently.

     I was taught the Palmer Script in third grade I believe. I was so excited on the first day when we learned to write lower case i’s and j’s. I came home very excited and practiced them more at home. It did not take long, like the next day, when I realized that my handwriting was going to be less than perfect. 

      When I was handwriting my daily pages, I probably had the best handwriting of my life. I still believe in the power and personal touch of a thoughtfully handwritten missive.
      Thanks once again to all my friends and family who have graciously supported this 11year old project through both readership and encouragement. I greatly appreciate it.

No comments:

Post a Comment