Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Connection Between E-communication and Creativity

"The drive to write, that primal glee we felt as children when we learned the letters that formed our name and then the words that formed our world, is a drive that has been buried in our frantic, electrical, telephonic age.

"'E-mail' is a rebalancing of the wheel. People love e-mail because they love to write. Furthermore, because it is instantaneous, e-mail tricks people into evading their censor. E-mail isn't 'real' writing. It's something more casual and quirky and inventive. It's somehow naughty and anarchistic, like passing notes in school. E-mail tempts us into writing because it's a nonauthoritarian place to write. We can dash off quick notes, break thoughts in the middle, say, 'I'll get back to you later.' E-mail allows us intimacy without formality. No wonder we love it. It lets us drop the rock."

--Julia Cameron, The Right to Write (1998), on the stimulation of creativity through electronic communication (34)

Judging from this quote, I have a feeling Julia Cameron is gleeful over blogging and instant messaging now that both have taken off so thoroughly. And although their frequent use in business has meant these media are beginning to evolve their own levels of formality and informality in the same way that conversations and speeches have such levels, it's true that in general the instantaneous nature of these media often mean that we write much more, and much more creatively, than we ever thought we could.

I know I've had many a case of writer's block solved by writing out an idea in an email to a friend. And I know perfectly well that the times in my life I didn't think I kept a journal could be well documented by the email conversations I exchanged with my friends during those months. It's funny, because I've heard many people say the level of literacy in North America is going down because of the use of such media. Although I don't deny that the sort of writing often produced through such forms is a different kind of writing than what's been done before, I maintain that the written word has become more important than ever. But because it's easy to write and often more informal and easily deletable (not to mention a bit unstable--think of hard drives), it doesn't count in our minds.

Of course, the sort of writing that "evades the censor" isn't always the best final-draft material, which has gotten quite a few people in trouble during the last few years, as e-communication has gained a certain amount of ascendancy in our culture. But Julia Cameron's certainly right when she claims that it helps to start brainstorming in writing, to overcome writer's block and to stimulate our creative use of language. Furthermore, instantaneous communication also means instaneous response, which allows us to more easily hone our communication abilities during the early-draft stages of writing than ever before. If practice in writing makes perfect, our culture (you would think) would be well on its way.

Of course, that doesn't mean that we necessarily have as much practice at really polishing things before we send them off on their merry, instantaneous way--which is probably the situation to which those decrying the literacy levels are referring. I definitely agree that the fact that we as the members of our society are feeling too rushed to polish our writing is a definite loss. As with most things, there are both up sides and down sides to this e-communication revolution. The question, of course, is: which situation is better? I'm not sure that question is ultimately answerable except on a case-by-case basis, but it certainly is an interesting one...


CalabazaBlog said...


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