All posts by Thomas C Woodward

To Blog or Not to Blog?

Blog

Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

 

Audience: fellow writers, aspiring authors

 

As a writer, I’ve been told that I need to have a platform. For many writers, this means starting a blog. But for those of us writers who just want to write our novel and not get mired in keeping up with social media (which can be a job in and of itself), we feel that we have no options. After all, the first question we anticipate getting from a prospective literary agent is “What’s your platform?”

So I looked for advice on the web.

Why Blog—From the Writer Who Said Goodbye to Blogging covers one writer’s response to this issue. Publisher and author L.L. Barkat began years ago with myspace.com and eventually moved on to blogging to help promote her work. She found that the currency of the realm was “reciprocity” (commenting on other people’s blogs and posts to ensure she received the same). Eventually she became overwhelmed with the amount of time she was devoting to staying current with social media, and in 2012 she pulled the plug altogether. Her advice to writers was to avoid blogging from the get-go. After 6 years, she has returned to blogging, but with the caveat of turning off comments on all her posts. This has allowed her “a peaceful place for me and for my readers. And this is in line with the times.”

As an introvert, I must admit that I was immediately drawn to this concept of getting myself out there with a blog, but circumventing the draining aspects that go along with staying current. On the other hand, L.L. Barkat is an established author with an existing readership already in place, while I have yet to publish my first book. Could this also work for beginning writers?

I wanted to get another viewpoint, so I turned to our reading Social Media is Bullshit by B. J. Mendelson. He argues that social media is essentially an irrelevant waste of time, and that old-fashioned marketing advice is where you should actually begin placing your efforts:

“America is perceived as an every-man-and-woman-for-themselves kind of place, but it’s not. It’s a place where we look out for each other and take care of our own. And part of doing that is by calling out bullshit like ‘social media.’ […] The reason the generic stuff [old-fashioned marketing advice] works is it has all been done, proven, and tested since the time Jesus rode around on a Brontosaurus. On my desk right now is a second edition of How to Win Friends and Influence People. After reading almost every popular marketing book that’s come out since 2001, and this book, originally published in 1936, I can conclude one thing: If Dale Carnegie were alive today, he’d sue all these guys for plagiarism.”

Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle. While I intend to begin a blog on the recommendation of the author community in general, maybe it’s also not the worst idea to reach out to local brick-and-mortar media outlets and become my own publicist (or hire one if I can afford it).

Taking control of your own medical future

surgery 3-d modeling.jpg

Ever wanted to take more control the next time you go in for surgery?

It’s not something many people think about, but I recently read an article in the Atlantic (link here) where Larry Smarr, a man suffering from Crohn’s disease, brought a full 3-d model of his insides (which he dubbed “Transparent Larry”) with him to the operating table in order to help assist his surgeon for the 5 hour operation to remove a portion of his colon.

How did he do this? Well, he happens to head the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, or Calit2, and has used a supercomputer to monitor his health and peer at his organs. Larry spent years taking precise measurements of every input (food) and output (you guessed it…) from his body, to help discover the initial signs of Crohn’s disease years before it would have been detectable from standard medical procedures.

His doctor who operated on him in 2016, Sonia Ramamoorthy, found the bizarre information supplied by her patient to be not only incredibly useful, but potentially groundbreaking as a possible next step in medical technology. “As a result, he arguably knows more about his own inner workings than anyone else ever has. His goal, as he puts it, is for each of us to become ‘the CEO of our own body.’ […] Inside Transparent Larry, Ramamoorthy got a jump on the surgery a week early. She could see which portion of the colon would have to be removed, where it was located, and how it was shaped. […] The virtual images were so helpful, she said later, that she wishes she could have them every time she operates: ‘It was wonderful. It was like the difference between driving around before and after Google Maps.’”

I was floored to think this type of 3-d data might someday be available not only to someone like Larry, but to the general populace. The current norm in surgical operations are to use a robotic equipment armed with multiple camera arms to help explore a patient’s insides during the procedure. But in Larry’s case, Ramamoorthy was able to shave nearly an hour off the procedure and could consult every facet of his insides over a week in advance to help familiarize the team who would be operating on him.

“Turning a two-dimensional MRI into three dimensions is not that hard, Larry told the audience at his lecture. The remaining challenge is to get more doctors to be like Ramamoorthy, and to get more engineers working in concert with them.”