A few days ago, in response to another deluge of Facebook Newsfeed requests to help keep my posts and their posts out of the new “news ticker” at the upper right hand side of the screen, I posted the following status update:
No, I will not take myself out of YOUR privacy settings, and I'm not taking you out of mine. I have nothing to hide, and neither should you.
Here's a freebie guaranteed to make your online social networking life more secure: don't post anything anywhere online, ever, for any reason that you wouldn't want everyone, everywhere to be able to see FOR ALL TIME. This means friends, future bosses, children, spouses, pastors, relatives, strangers, governments, aliens, (great-great-great) grandchildren, vampires, carnies, angels, politicians, that smelly dude on the bus, enemies, The Taliban, everyone in better shape than you, the robot who will one day run your life, geeks, geniuses, ghosts... and so on. EVERY-FREAKIN-ONE.
And share this. Or don't. Your call.
First things first. My apologies for anyone who felt snapped at. I was grumpy.
“Privacy” has become, I think, an ironic word. I think it’s ironic because we don’t really use it to talk about privacy at all, but rather use it to discuss online activities which are, more often than not, completely unprivate. Sure, we can guard our Email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts with passwords, but as we are all becoming increasingly aware, those things are not private at all.
There needs to be a clarification here: privacy is not a synonym for security.
Now, I do think governments, banks, and online retailers have a responsibility to protect my security. If I entrust them with my credit card to make a purchase, or fill out an online form for a new passport, it’s not unreasonable that that information be locked up securely. But when we expect Facebook, Twitter, and various Email services to protect our voluntarily posted/sent information, we forget who really is the responsible party.
We are. No one is forcing us to use any of those services – which are designed to make money – and we should be very, very careful about what information is placed on their servers. Think about it: from the dawn of the internet, security experts have been hammering home the point that nothing of any security value at all should be put online. BUT – and there’s the magic proviso – if we do place things online, WE must make sure that we are using effective passwords and changing them regularly to reduce the ease with which hackers can access the info.
Click here if you thought your passwords were clever.
And that’s just what we can control. We have no say about who runs the Facebook or Twitter server farms, or how many dishonest people work for Gmail or Hotmail, and yet we put some of our most delicate information in their hands and then act all indignant when they remind us that our privacy isn’t really their responsibility.
This summer, when I finished teaching and moved into writing full time, I learned about marketing and publicity and how my reputation is in large part determined by my public persona. And because "public" these days includes the world wide web, writers (anyone, really) has to be extra careful about what information is visible online, particularly the things we put there ourselves. I might not be able to control some things – such as the Zoo Run posting my personal best 10K time, 41:22, from which I am now embarrassingly distant – but there is so much I can.
The advice I received and that I would put forth is this: everything online is fair game. In these hyper-connected times, anyone can cut-and-paste, download photos, web-bot search addresses and phone numbers, so I was advised never to post or type anything I wouldn’t want anyone to see and use, forever (the net is, after all, here to stay). In my case, in addition to my personal accounts, I have to be all right with others cutting and pasting the selected poetry and fiction I put on my professional websites, or posts to this blog, and using it elsewhere. Yes, I have copyright, but doesn’t cut-and-paste make it seem almost obsolete?
And Google yourself often. That might even be more scary than the password link above.
I'm a big believer in the importance of routine. In my limited experience, people are, to batter an old cliché, creatures of habit. Most folks I know take comfort in familiar things, activities, beliefs, and philosophies. Change – especially unexpected change – is upsetting. (Change can be good, I know, but I’m speaking about how we typically respond at a gut level.)
This is what change can look like.
As a teacher, I learned very quickly that establishing routines was essential to foster three important realities in my classroom: safety, comfort, and focus. When students knew what was coming, they felt safe, and safety is essential for building trust in the classroom. Comfort is also key – not having to worry that every class is a frenetic exercise in the unexpected made students feel comfortable, and comfort produces relaxation and ease, which increases creativity. Safety and comfort, when achieved, allowed the students to focus on their work and product rather than on their environment, with excellent results.
In addition to routine being something I appreciate as a person, I’ve also discovered how much I value it as a writer – I have discovered that if I treat myself like I did my students, those three ingredients make for productive and effective writing time. Everyone needs to establish their own routines, of course, but I thought I’d share mine.
My constant: Time. When I write, I need a chunk of time. For me, I need at least an hour to warm up and still have enough time to produce. Some people are good at bursts – my wife, for example, can produce wonderful things in five minutes – so if that’s you, I am envious.
Disclaimer: Even though I am a new writer, I am very blessed to have almost every morning free to write: I realize others don’t have that kind of time.
1. Wake up early, and have breakfast and my first cup of coffee. I need to eat, otherwise I get dopey and grumpy. And I eat something with good fibre – a regular writer is a happy writer.
2. Sit with my wife and chat, read the paper, Facebook, Tweet, etc. I love this time to connect before she leaves for her office. It settles me.
3. Have another cup of coffee. By the way, my recent writer-fuel of choice is Red Hill Coffee Co.’s Sumatran and Columbian.
4. Do my ablutions and dress in something comfortable but presentable. Other writers can write in their PJ’s all day, but I prefer to get clean and dressed – it helps me transition into work-mode and helps me stay focused while I am working.
5. Open all the curtains/blinds in our home to let in the sunlight. I love sunlight.
6. Go into my office – I’ve discovered how much I enjoy having my own writing space – and turn on whatever lights I need. Tidy my desk. (Note that I wrote “tidy,” not “über-clean.”)
7. Check to make sure my coffee is full and I have a cup of water. Make sure my writing surface is (mostly) clear of clutter. Again, this helps me treat the time as work time – I am a professional. (Or I hope to be.)
8. Sit down and write. If I’m feeling energized, I get to work straight away on my current manuscript. If not, I’ll do a warm-up (this blog post is an example of one of those) to get my fingers and brain nimble and ready.
9. I’ll keep writing until my creative juices are leached out of me for the day, or until I have to do something else (I have a part-time job at the local library and I also do the cooking in our house, so sometimes I need to get our and get groceries, run errands, etc.)
10. If I’m not feeling particularly creative, I force myself to work for the available chunk of time. I’ve discovered that I get about three hours of good creative time before my mind gets mushy.
11. I’ll stop and eat lunch, even if I’m still feeling creative. (Like breakfast, if I don’t eat, I get all wobbly and gross.)
12. If I have a whole day at my disposal, after lunch, I’ll either keep going on the manuscript (rare), or work on other writer tasks that don’t require so much creative energy. I’ll update my website or Facebook fan page, tweet, look for and enter contests.
13. Read. I try to read for at least an hour every day. Sometimes I am spoiled and can lie down on the sofa in the afternoon, other times, I read on the bus or on break at work. But I read every day. This is a non-negotiable part of my routine.
14. Make supper and hang out with my wife. I rarely write in the evenings nowadays – I did more of that when I was teaching full time – and try to preserve evening time as family time. Life sometimes intrudes, of course, but Rosalee and I are pretty good about slotting that time for each other if we have it – being a good husband and having an awesome wife makes me a better writer.
15. Sleep. We try to go to bed early and get a good night’s rest. (Note that I said “try”: our paper-thin walls and late-showering neighbours sometimes interfere.)
16. Exercise: I try to get a run, cycle, or walk in every day.This happens at various times, but it’s in there too. I've found that it clears the lungs and the blood, and thus clears my head. I need a clear head.
Did I forget anything? How about you?