I want to start with a story from the Onion. Because really, shouldn’t every talk start with a story from the Onion? This is from earlier this year.





The headline reads: “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text.”





“Unable to rest their eyes on a colorful photograph or boldface heading that could be easily skimmed and forgotten, Americans collectively recoiled Monday when confronted with a solid block of uninterrupted text.





“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next.





” ‘It demands so much of my time and concentration,’ said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. ‘This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it.’ ”




“Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.




This is a sign of how rough the outlook sometimes seems for our culture of reading and writing.





In fact, every generation fears the death of literacy at the hands of some new media technology. And yet I’m here to share some optimism. After long existence as a confirmed cynic who shared the general belief in our imminent cultural doom, I felt an unfamiliar sensation 15 years ago when the Internet came over the horizon: I found myself becoming excited and hopeful.















SCHOOL #2





So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day *on* writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”





Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.





So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day *of* writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.





You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.















SCHOOL #3





So this is the National Day on Writing. I confess I didn’t know there was such a thing till I got this invitation. I’m delighted there is. But it’s an odd construction: “Day *on* writing.” It sort of sounds like those old ads that went, “This is your brain on drugs.”





Think about it: What is “your brain on writing” — or even “our world on writing”? That’s what I’m going to talk about today.





So this Day on Writing is a great thing. I admit, when I first heard it, I thought it was “day *of* writing.” You know: What are we doing here? We should all be writing, right now! Of course, the only way to be a writer is to write frequently, regularly — ideally, daily.





You could always do this, long before there was any such thing as a blog. You could keep a diary or a notebook or a commonplace book. but you couldn’t do it in public, for an audience. Now pretty much anyone can do that. And that’s changed our world in some big ways — some welcome, some distressing.