There’s a lot of advice out there on how digital writing differs from traditional writing. Whenever a new way of expression is discovered, our response is exuberance and wonder at what current technology can do. Often, that kind of discussion spawns a myriad other discussions and rightly so.
Sometimes, while we build on the old, we only focus on the new as though the old is not relevant anymore.
Imagine your garden. If we were gardening, we would be focusing on our top soil which now seems successful at nurturing a new kind of plant life. We think it came to exist all on its own.
Some of us attempt to become experts at that top soil culture and start thinking that the new way is way more advanced than the old. We become fascinated by our own tricks and the novelty of dazzling displays that anything fresh will inevitably provide. We think that it will magically transform our ways of expression.
Imagine another scenario. When new parents discover that a young child can imitate the idioms used by adults in a precociously innocent but very different way in a new context, they think it’s wonderful. Parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents make the child repeat the expression a myriad times just because it’s cute. Some also secretly hope that here’s a prodigy in the making.
So with our newly discovered ability to blend pictures digitally, edit videos, create storyboards and discover so many other new tools. These are great tools that certainly influence our form of communication. And yet, human communication remains similar in many fundamental ways. That’s the part we often ignore.
Our tools can create magic. Yet, from the artist or writer’s perspective, the magic is not in the tools. They help us perform some tricks but the tricks have to be performed in the service of something bigger. That something bigger is often something larger, something older, with deep connections to the bedrock below that top soil that holds up the new life that we’ve discovered.
Like everyone else, I’m often fascinated by the tools at my disposal in the digital age. I’m often so dazzled by them that it’s been difficult to remember their purpose — expression, communication and comprehension.
One way I’ve discovered through which I manage to escape the illusion of grandeur and keep myself grounded has been to imagine some great stalwarts of expression and communication from the past with the tools that I have available to me today.
What would, say, Homer do if he had access to digital publishing? Would he still have as many long speeches and such long stories? What would Milton do if he had access to the art of photography? Would there be as many descriptions? What would Oscar Wilde do if he had Twitter? Would his quips change form?
Sure they would.
But what about the things they had to say?
Then I ask myself a question. I have access to all these new ways of expression but do I have something worth expressing as they did?
Only then am I able to make a realistic assessment of my work.
13 thoughts on “What would Homer do?”
nice, i like
When Marshall McLuhan said back in the 60s, “the medium is the message,” he was talking about everything that’s happening right now. Right now. The technology has changed writing only in the most superficial ways. It has, however, changed reading and thinking in big ways. People who text all the time, for instance, have more or less stopped thinking in sentences. This does have an impact on how they write, as well, but people who text all the time were never writers in the real sense to begin with. Writers write. Period.
As far as I can tell from all your thoughtful posts, you ALWAYS have something worth expressing and you do so incredibly well. Thank you so much for all you give us to ponder. 🙂
I am reading Anna Karenina at the moment. I can’t work out if Tolstoy, with his acute in-depth observation of actions and feelings, would have embraced the great spectrum of IT possibilities, or whether these would have distracted him and led him to write superficially. I can imagine this outcome, but on the other hand “if you want something down, ask a busy man/woman”. I think he might have said give me everything and managed it all.
Technology is just a tool, but the real talent comes from within. We just happen to have more opportunity now 🙂
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Good post! I must admit I still do most of my writing in a notebook, with a pen. Then I work on it and type it in when it’s about ready and finished. I can’t seem to cope with so much of my writing on a screen, I need to hold it in my hand!
Great post. I find the bling of modern day can be a bit blinding to me, getting caught up in presentation rather than focusing on what I intend to say. Very well said, thanks for sharing.
I adore the idea of Oscar Wilde on Twitter.
I definitely think it’s not as simple as it used to be, but we aren’t forced to make it complicated. I hope that makes sense. There are days I’m tempted to write by paper and pen, just to connect with the side of me that says Laura Ingalls Wilder did it, so can I.
I actually have a two step process for some of my posts. Ledger, then type and edit, the post and edit.
I find the whole digital age daunting and exhausting. There are some programs that I find overwhelmingly complex and time-consuming to feel any real sense of accomplishment. Sometimes, though I enjoy the availability of different forms of artistic expression but then am consumed by all of the options. For writers/bloggers, one can scarce communicate solely through words because people still like pictures to color a story. I find it hard to be spontaneous when my mind is focused on being comprehensive, relevant, and marketable. It kind of ruins the scope of what I want to create & the process of creating it with my words, hands, movements, voice…But it IS so darn convenient, isn’t it? Typing comments to your blog on my DROID, uploading photos to my laptop, scanning doodles for posts…it’s just such a pervasive method of reaching multiple readers/viewers in an immediate way. I’m ambivalent about it all…can’t you tell?