I have a very special relationship with my laptop computer. For going on 15 years I’ve owned one, almost since Apple began making them. I hooked up with my first at Leo Burnett, where they doled out Macbooks to the copywriters and desktops for the art directors. I still think we writers got the better deal. Back then, few of us actually knew how to use a computer and so Leo Burnett provided mandatory lessons. A saucy blond woman taught me, which, at the time, may have been the biggest motivator to take the class. Like most creative people, I loathed tutorials, even when they were for my own good. Needless to say, I’m glad as hell I went. In retrospect, I should have been first in line.

My machine quickly smote me. You have to realize how exotic these svelte devices were, coming off an IBM Selectric or whatever the hell we’d been using. The IBM machine was swell…like your mother-in-law. Believe it or not, lots of writers still hacked away on manual typewriters or gave their copy to assistants to type. Sounds like ancient history but it isn’t. I’m talking 1996.

No love lost here.

Within a couple years we became inseparable, my laptop and I. Now it’s like we’re married, only without human frailty. She stays up with me at night telling me her secrets. In the morning I run to see what she’s saved for me. I take my laptop everywhere. She is way more than a tool. The Ipad or Iphone might be sexier but they do not seduce me. As a writer, I cannot ply my craft on those devices.

I realize the “life online” idea is nothing new. It’s so 1999. But that’s not what I’m talking about. My relationship with my computer is more involved than what teenagers have with smart phones or executives and their Blackberries. Those people can’t wait to get the new, new version of whatever their using. Me? I get attached to the hardware. I hold on until the bitter end. Though dead, I still have my 2004 G4. The dings on its silver shell are special to me. As is the backstage pass sticker from the 2005 Secret Machines concert I attended at Cabaret Metro.

Even though my new computer rocks, I can’t chuck the old one. I started this blog on that machine. I wrote the final draft of The Happy Soul Industry and Sweet by Design on it. It is also where I wrote my last TV commercial, for Cabot stains. Alas, my G4 died two years ago. Ironically, it now rests under the landline in my office, which I never use anymore either.

I bet many of you (writers especially) would have a hard time voluntarily getting rid of your old laptops if your company didn’t take them from you.

Is it old school to think of technology this way? I don’t know. Musicians fall in love with their instruments. Especially guitarists, right? When you use a machine to create stuff it takes some of the credit; it becomes a part of you. As awesome as the latest flat screen TV is, it’s still only a delivery system and, as such, the newer one is always better.

Stay new forever…online!

While major publishing deals with big NY imprints are still the fantasy of every author (including this one), using the Internet to publish one’s content has become almost as fashionable as it is common. A sea change has occurred. Pre-Internet, publishing your own words (be they editorial or fiction) was considered the hallmark of charlatans, dubious gurus and bored housewives. Self-publishing was like a drain trap, keeping you from the bottom, yes, but hardly up on top.

Blogging changed all that. We are nowhere near as fringe as we were ten years ago, last year, or even last week. Every day new creators and aggregators emerge while preexisting ones get better at their craft and grow audiences doing so.

Blogs and other self-published material are an exploding part of popular culture, whether the old-line entertainment, journalism and publishing entities like it or not.

Focusing on book publishing, I’ve unexpectedly discovered aspects to online publishing that actually trump the old-fashioned variety. Though seemingly obvious now, they first came as pleasant surprises.

A major bonus with online publishing is that authors can continuously update and correct their content. Get a fact wrong you can amend it. Lord knows this will prevent countless apologies and lawsuits.

But what about fiction? Since I started publishing chapters of Sweet by Design, several readers have discovered typos and reported them to me. Had this happened with a real book I’d be SOL. But in this case I merely went into my blog’s dashboard and edited the manuscript. No fuss. No muss. It’s like the mistake never happened.

In some respects readers are becoming editors much the way authors have become publishers. That’s a level of interactivity I hadn’t anticipated. At first scary (OMG, someone found a mistake!), I now find it to be a privilege. So, before I write another word: Thank you, Gentle Readers slash Editors. You know who you are.

Another cool variation is updating content for cultural or temporal reasons. For example, in Sweet by Design I mention numerous people, places and things indigenous to Chicago and parts of Wisconsin. Well, since writing the novel one or two of these places has gone out of business, with more undoubtedly to follow. (Thank you recession.) Nothing dates fiction more than passé references. But now, when I’m uploading text and notice such an occurrence, I can edit or do a quick rewrite. My content never gets old. (Be nice, people.) It’s like having the Picture of Dorian Gray for your novel. Stuck up on a shelf, a book gets older and older but online it’s forever young!

Crocs and their widgets

Crocs and their widgets

As you may have noticed (or not), my blog has no glittery affectations on it. There is no Twitter feed or feeds of any kind, no AdAge ranking, or Google search. Besides a few links at the very bottom, I haven’t got an ad for any people, places or things. I roll sans widgets, with only my guardian angel (call him David, after the character in my novel), now biding his time as a logo.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been tempted to load my margins with nifty doodads. I see all the various badges and whatnots my daughters have crammed into their Crocs. I imagine how put together my blog would look filled up with links and portals. Lord knows my ego is dying to know what my Power Ranking is.

Yet I resist the temptation and, for the life of me, I don’t know why. If I’m not mistaken the more one attaches to his blog the more ways people can get to it. One practical reason I refrain from accessorizing my blog is that the appearance format I chose from WordPress (Ambiru) happens not to allow ornaments and advertising. Maybe they permit some but my few flirtations with the dashboard manager have indicated otherwise. Sigh.

Of course I could choose another theme. It’s not hard to do. But I like the one I’ve got. Do you, Gentle Reader, like the one I’ve got? After all, if you’re cool with it why should I even care?

One reason would be to get more people to visit Gods of Advertising. The shiny doodads promise to make that happen.

Or not. Somewhat irrationally, I worry that if I go commercial many of you will become annoyed and move on. (We do tell our clients to keep it clean. Should not the same standard apply to me?) I suppose I’m naïve enough to believe if I want more readers I need only write better posts. Foolish, I know. But such is the debate in my head.

So, Ambiru, I guess it’s you and me baby. 4EVA. By the way, WordPress claims this theme was created by a character named Phu Ly, a developer in London. I guess if it’s good enough for Phu it’s good enough for you. (Ugh, Sorry.)

The Gods of Advertising have spoken…for now.

I know a writer who uses her blog to journal and to express gratitude for all the blessings in her life…and that’s it! Unlike me, she’s not promoting an upcoming book, her office place, herself. She simply uses the blog to write about what’s happening in her life and to say thank you for another day. A gratitude list! Imagine that. So many of us (certainly me) use this medium to promote one thing or another. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The Gods of Advertising most certainly condone promotion.)

But what about God God? Does the Ultimate Authority view our endless cyber-chatter as egos run wild? Methinks He looks at my friend’s gratitude list with far more reverie than, say, my pithy prose about advertising –no matter how soulful I think it is!

How many souls are out there then, every morning and every night, using the Internet for personal growth, prayer and recovery? We all know about the gossips, the hate-mongers, authors, models, rock stars, and, yes, creative directors…

But the vast majority of “us” are not “them.” For every online Gawker there are countless geeks, regular folks expressing themselves for reasons known only to them…and God.

And even if there is no God, God forbid, I’m sure secular philosophers embrace the idea of ideating, audience or not. Let me explain. My friend’s blog may never receive a single visitor -no clicks, no comments, nothing. In this way it is like a diary, private and locked up. But a blog post is never truly private, is it? There is always the potential for audience. Somewhere somebody can find her. And that’s what makes her blog a prayer as well as meditation. Cyberspace is just more universe and God is most definitely wired. He’s online. He can hear your prayers. And he likely appreciates gratitude lists more than Top Ten lists.