Monday, July 5, 2010

The Voice of Apple

Move over, iPod, iPhone, and iUniverse. What’s the talk of Apple this weekend? It’s all about writing, voice, and emails.

Have you ever been in a creative writing class and been assigned to write in the style of Falkner? Of Hemingway? Of Austen? Of Dr. Seuss? It’s a great exercise for experimentation and breaking out of your normal writing habits. Now think Steve Jobs. What would his voice be like? Brief, perfunctory, and prosaic is my guess – not that this takes away from the man’s brilliance in other areas.

The story of the weekend is this: emails were sent from Steve Jobs’ email to an unhappy iPhone customer. The electronic messages went back and forth a few times, were brought to the attention of Boy Genius Report and eventually MacDailyNews, and suddenly were the iTopic of the iBlogosphere. Now, whether or not true correspondence existed between Steve Jobs and the occasional customer, happy or disgruntled, I would still argue that the personal attention wins Apple some points. Steve Jobs is apparently known to take time for occasional emails like this – brownie points, Steve Jobs, for remembering the power of the personalized written word! – however, not surprisingly, this weekend’s report shows the emails with the Richmond, Virginia customer were not really coming from Steve Jobs.

What does this really mean? Not much in the large scheme of things, in my opinion. We shouldn’t be shocked that a man like Steve Jobs doesn’t take the time to answer every email just like we shouldn’t be stunned that Hollywood stars and D.C. politicians have ghostwriters for their memoirs.

The impact of this story to the writers among us is larger, though. Our skill is necessary. The ability to transform voice, be it in character dialogue or marketing materials, is a talent that can be appreciated, a talent that is needed in the creative and the business world, and a skill that if honed can allow the novel-not-yet-sold authors among us a pay-day and extra practice.

Happy writing, everyone!

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