The ghost writer of Christmases past

DECEMBER 1st has arrived, and here at the ranch that means it’s time to light the advent candle!

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For years we had the advent calendars with the chocolates in them, and before that we had one of these.

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But the best advent calendar ever, at least if you are a writer, is this idea from :

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Then I realized I already had this advent calendar, and that it’s called email.

Once in a while, though, you get a pleasant email, for instance of someone asking you

Wayne, how were things different when you started out as a writer?

Of all the email questions that I totally made up, this has got to be one of my favs. So in celebration of the holiday season, I present to you:

The ghost of writing past!

THE GHOST WRITER

Only, I have no idea what the Ghost of Writing Past looks like, so here’s Ewan McGregor, from The Ghost Writer, and a kid pretending to be Tiny Tim that I’ve Photoshopped in. Or maybe that actually is Tiny Tim, in which case it’s good to see he kicked whatever that wasting disease of his was.

Things that were different when I started out as a writer

1. Probably the biggest difference in the old days is that our words were printed on paper, in a tall thin arrangement called a column. For this reason, people like me were often called columnists, after the medium in which we wrote, the same way that writers today are called bloggers—a term meaning web log and referring to the Internet. So I guess this means that in 20 years my writing has gone from being tall and thin to lying on the ground, gathering spider webs. Which come to think of it is kind of what’s slowly happening to me as well.

Also, I’ve never been able to figure out whether I was a Doric columnist or a Corinthian one. There are Ionic columnists as well, and I like to think this was supposed to be Ironic but someone misunderstood—which is what always happens when you are being an I(r)onic columnist.

2. In the old days, the newspapers paid writers something called money. You don’t need to know about this. Move along.

3. I started writing so long ago, that one day I needed to invent the letter Q to finish a sentence.

4. Writers used to submit copy which would be laid out as type and printed from plates. Later, plates were derived from film, and everything had to be camera-ready. If you are really old, you’ll remember hot and cold type, and you’ll know that word processing software terms come from real-world objects like leading made from lead and pasting that really was paste. Footnotes of course refers to the old days, when paper was so valuable and rare that we made notes on our feet. This is also how rear-endnotes got started, and were eventually shortened to the term we use today.

5. Nowadays the Internet allows profound and sensitive people to leave insightful observations, below every article. As a result of the comment section, society is advancing at an unprecedented rate, becoming more enlightened by the hour. Thank heavens for the anonymous comment section! And I say this, of course, as an Ionic columnist.

6. Best of all, you can now put snow on your blog. If you had wanted this effect when I was starting out as a writer, you would have had to follow your readers around, tossing fists of snow into their faces while they tried to get through the paper. So obviously, yeah, that’s what I did. And it worked, and we liked it.

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