Well, now that it’s February, a full month into 2020, I’m finally used to writing the date. It has stopped jarring me, but it took a while. It’s just that for many of my adult years, probably since I was twenty, the thought of 2020 would conjure up images of George Jetson and cities in the sky and jet-propelled sneakers. In my mind, it was an iconic futuristic year. Now it’s here, and I–we–are living in it. It’s not all that different from 2019; we still drive cars, we still cook on gas stoves, we still chew gum and swallow antibiotics. Blue jeans are still blue.
Obviously, plenty has changed since I was twenty. There weren’t GMOs yet, or Botox, or Ubers. There weren’t a million aps available to count my calories, record my mileage, or track my business receipts. It’s hard to believe that someone created an ap to help me meditate and calm my mind, and that they are among the most popular! The art of relaxation, which for me, typically, means a trip to the desert to feel the wind and stare at the stars, has become digitized. Photos are digitized! Music is digitized! I suppose even the art of writing has been digitized! And this newer way of doing it is nothing like the heavy-duty typewriters of yore did it! I now have spell check, auto correct, a lightweight keyboard and an ergonomic mouse: less organic paper made from trees, more gadgets.
Recently, for fun, I downloaded the “Winston Typewriter” app to my computer so that I could go back in time and try to write with the click, click, tap, tap, ding, return sounds that first imprinted the thrill of Creativity on my brain. I used to love getting the words on the page, typing as many as 75 words per minute with the hunt-and-peck skills of a baby-boomer teenager. There was a musical quality to it. Playing with this app got me thinking, reflecting.
In these past thirty-five years or so, the art of writing has definitely changed. We don’t need typewriters anymore, which means no more messy white-out or correction ribbon or eraser tape. It’s amazing that there are programs available to help me organize a novel, and dictation software that allows me to speak into a recorder and then magically turn it into written content. It’s pretty remarkable that people, like myself, can upload their work to user-friendly sites and print-on-demand. (The publishing industry itself has changed, too, but that’s another subject.)
The art form itself, writing, has evolved over time. For example, it is widely held that the typewriter was responsible for the modern style of poetry we call free verse. It is thought that once poets could personally type their own words and stop relying on an editor, rhyme schemes became less dominant. Free verse was invented. Poetry released the boundary of the rhythm, becoming fluid and stream of consciousness. The tools impacted the way poets wrote.
We now have more tools than ever before; these tools do more than ever before– more tools, doing more–to make it easier and more accessible than ever before in the history of the written word (clay tablets and cuneiform anyone?). So why do I (and many writers) have a tougher time writing than ever before? In theory, it should be easier.
Since I began eking out this rough draft, I’ve received (and answered) fifteen texts, two phone calls, a Telegram and a Marco Polo message. I’ve lost my train of thought too many times to count. As a result of these distractions, my artistic right brain feels teased and has become reticent to participate any longer!
There’s an easy solution: turn off the phone.
I’m quite interested in unraveling the paradox, here.
So, if the typewriter was the catalyst for poets to discover free verse, then perhaps the cell phone, with all of its expansiveness, actually limits our ability to journey inward.
Our mysterious interior realm–the impractical, emotional, primal part of our personality– rarely gets invited to the party. Our daily lives don’t allow much playtime or exploration when we must check off the almighty to-do list–work, keep track of emails, texts, schedules, shopping lists, pay bills, all of the logical sequential stuff.
Calling up our interior realm to write or Create requires flipping a switch. If that switch is the OFF button on our cell phone, then BAM! We should be able to dive into our Creative side, to write, freely and without inhibitions. But maybe our reliance on the cell phone has somehow disguised the trail; then what? Maybe we aren’t even on the right track. The road to our interior realm is so overgrown by productivity that we can’t find our way. (Or perhaps we forgot the way, what with so many shiny things stealing our attention.)
The tools we have to help us, can often mislead and misuse us.
I heard a while back that when we started using a personal computer to make our workload lighter, it merely added to our labor because we could accomplish twice as much, just as fast. Almost suddenly, we expected more out of ourselves. So then, instead of offering us MORE leisure time, the PC doubled our expectations, and we lost more than we gained. Another paradox.
I wonder if Thomas Edison, who worked twenty-hours per day, invented the lightbulb to create longer working days. But to what end? Longer work days truncates our sleep. Lack of sleep means less restoration, less dreaming. Right brain activity loses out, again.
There is the famous quote by American author, Flannery O’Connor, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
This feels a bit backwards, yes? And that is the point, exactly. At least I think it is.
Sometimes the unseen realm drives the seen. The internal realm is the secret force behind the external. What does this mean?
According to Freud and Jung, our unconscious pushes through to our consciousness no matter what we intend. Experts purport that our behaviors are driven by our unconscious needs and gaps. Our personalities are self-regulating, which means in order to find balance, the hidden realm will come to light, whether or not we intend it.
So, if that’s the case, looking from the outside in, do we as a society, unconsciously want to lose our bearings with our deeper soul? Is our right-brain getting the boot because our adult society prefers ordered and measurable outcomes over the unknown magic of childhood whimsy?
We’ve evolved as a species since our beginnings. Our grunts and hollers morphed into languages. Our brain’s fight-or-flight reaction has moved from tribal aggression to political divisions. Maybe this millennium is the one where we move from being high-feeling, spirited beings to robot-like, squared-away appropriate species, like Spock, who I can hear say, “emotional schmemotional.”
I’m not sure that unraveling this paradox is helpful–we can’t uninvent the light bulb, we can’t diminish our productivity quotient, we can’t function without our phones.
Perhaps our brains will eventually be able to accommodate all of the distractions and maintain the wonder of the imaginative realm. Maybe our interior realms will adjust to smaller windows of transcendence, sometimes led by an ap on our phones, and then that interior realm will be bleed into the exterior realm.
With all of the self-help memes on social media, we are digesting more spiritual blurbs and “be-kind” reminders than ever before. It’s not just reserved for Sundays at church. I wonder if there will be a weaving together of our interior and exterior realms, so much so that our unconscious, buried parts will become public. Maybe instead of conditioned behavior, we will actually be transparent. That beats Stepford wives’ tropes and Spock-esque character-types. Integration, or atonement, could be where the human species is headed. I kind of like that idea.
Now, back to eking out a first draft of a Creativity article.