Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Technology and Creative Writing ~ Can They Play Nice?

Starting with some questions today:

Have there been any technologies since the Gutenberg press that completely changed creative writing?

Were there any technologies before the Gutenberg press that completely changed creative writing?

What’s your favorite technology that seems to help you (or a friend) do creative writing?

Which technology has a negatively disruptive effect on creative writing?

This post can’t promise to answer those questions but might give a few hints

Still, you might feel like answering a few of them in the Comments :-)

The New York Times Sunday Book Review recently had an article called, Writing Bytes, with comments about technology by a bunch of writers (short excerpts follow but do go read the full article):

MARGARET ATWOOD: “Your practice test: Rewrite Edgar Allan Poe’s story ‘The Purloined Letter’, using present-day communications technology. In the original, a ‘letter’, made of ‘paper’, written in ‘ink’, and bearing a ‘seal’,’ was disguised as an inferior letter and hidden in plain view. The letter needed to be invisible to searchers, but close at hand so it could be quickly produced when needed.”

CHARLES YU: “I entered college in 1993 and graduated in 1997. Halfway through, the Internet became a thing. Netscape said: ‘Here you go, here’s a door to a brand-new place in the existence of the universe. We just started letting people in. Go ahead, it’s fun. It’ll keep getting bigger for the rest of your life. Also, you can change stuff in it. You get to make up new rules for everything — thinking, remembering, communicating.’”

MARISHA PESSL: “The trouble with technology is that it eradicates a character’s ability to be lost, and it’s the state of being in the dark and the journey toward understanding that has given rise to the greatest stories ever written.”

TOM McCARTHY: “The argument that the advent of the Internet somehow marks a Telecom Year Zero after which nothing will ever be the same can be made only by ignoring the actual history of literature.”

RAINBOW ROWELL: “‘Twenty years from now, you’ll look back on the first time you fell in love, and nothing will seem more romantic than text messages. Or Snapchat. Or whatever it is you’re doing right now behind your parents’ backs.’”

DANA SPIOTTA: “I’m interested in how an actual phone call has become a grotesquely intimate thing, almost jarring. We want immediacy with an end run around certain kinds of intimacy.”

FREDERICK FORSYTH: “I am an unashamed dinosaur; I still seek out a plot-driven narrative with a beginning, a middle and an end — the last reached after a steadily accelerating cadence. As to research, I eschew virtually all online fact searching because so much is either rubbish or inadequate.”

DOUGLAS COUPLAND: “I think the Internet has eroded 19th- and 20th-century notions of a person’s life being ‘a story’, or the notion that one’s life needs to be ‘a narrative’. Instead we increasingly seem to be seeing ourselves as just one more unit among seven billion other units.

TRACY K. SMITH: “…I remember ‘The Waste Land’, and I begin to feel that the Internet has simply succeeded in reinvigorating a set of ambitions and capacities that have been available to poets for a very long time.”

EMILY GIFFIN: “Technology and gadgetry inevitably filter into my stories, but I don’t believe that such advances, even those that usher in huge cultural shifts, fundamentally change how a story is conceived and constructed.”

ANDER MONSON: “I am drawn mostly, insistently to the human voice. How powerful and necessary the solo voice, the experience of being someone, something else for a little while. This is and will remain literature’s killer app, the thing most impervious to threat by everything that’s not the word.”

ELLIOTT HOLT: “…when I decided to write a story on Twitter, I embraced the particulars of the form. I created three different characters and set up three fake accounts, then tweeted in their voices.”

VICTOR LaVALLE: “In the past a writer had to go outside and get to know others before learning about their work, but the Internet has made humanity more accessible for misanthropes like me.”

LEE CHILD: “…technology hasn’t changed my narrative approach at all.”

MEG CABOT: “I often wonder which popular social messaging platform will become the new abandoned playground of the Internet, so I try to avoid mentioning them by name to keep the book from seeming too dated.”

TAO LIN: “I don’t think technology can have an unavoidable, nonlocal, non-trendy effect on storytelling until it allows humankind to join a kind of Overmind — to attain some form of ‘total identification’.”

A. M. HOMES: “…the fact of the novel, the intimacy of reading has not changed, be it in print or on e-readers. The act of reading is one to one, the connection between author and audience goes deeper than an avatar or invented other can defend. The novel speaks to us quietly and stays with us even as we sleep.”

You might also want to read the comments on that article (40 when I checked)
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2 responses to “Technology and Creative Writing ~ Can They Play Nice?

  1. Martina Sevecke-Pohlen November 8, 2013 at 3:06 am

    I think technology is just a vehicle for changes in writing. Perception changes, of reality and of ideas, but the change has many different causes and it isn’t possible to discern which outside change actually influenced literature. What I see is that people who wouldn’t have thought of writing before the internet somehow feel encouraged to put their words out into the world. Marc McGurl describes in The Program Era how in the 1920s masses of young immigrants took creative writing classes. They were the products of a change in education. Such changes threaten the Status quo, yet in the long run humanity profits.


  2. Alexander M Zoltai November 8, 2013 at 8:26 am


    Thank you for sharing a writer’s response to technology that isn’t mentioned by any of the authors in the article linked to :-)

    Also, the change for those immigrants wasn’t from a technological change but a social organization change—thanks for that insight!!


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