Thursday, May 04, 2006

The write generation

My mother made me take typing in eighth grade. We had to be aware of the bell for the carriage return, and had to figure out how to end the line by breaking a word at the proper place for hyphenation. Make a mistake, and you had to rip out the paper and start over. The typewriters at school were electric, but the typewriter at home to practice on was mom's old Royal manual from her college days, where you built great finger strength and slapped the little silver bar at the end of the line. The biggest advance to come along when I went to college for writing papers was liquid paper, because "five typos and you get an F." At least you didn't have to start over at the end of the page.

Most of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about.

Oh, yeah, and it was uphill in the snow both ways.

So between the big-ass dictionary and the thesarus and the liquid paper, typing was a big pain in the ass. I never, ever considered being a writer, simply because of the chore that it was to get it done correctly.

Writing by the masses had fallen out of the culture ever since long distance phone calls came along. Nobody wrote letters once you could pick up the phone and call people, and eloquent letters in fine penmanship went the way of the Edsel and the backseat handjob while parked at Lover's Leap. The old-schoolers would pine and wax poetically about the lost art of letter writing.

Then Al Gore invented email. Traditionalists cheered for the renaissance of the lost art of letter writing thanks to email. We communicated with the written word again! Hooray, spelling and grammar are on the way back! Little did they know that in a generation it would devolve into "I M Hrny! R U 2? Snd pix!"

When I got my first computer, solely because of the convenience of the backspace and delete keys, I decided to write. I can still picture the first time I sat down to write fiction, in a little apartment in East Nashville. The first line I wrote was, "I cradled the phone in disbelief. Stood up again." Because that was exactly what had just happened. I didn't have a date, so I thought, why not write a book? It was the beginning of the next great American novel, or so I thought. The only reason I started writing was because it was physically easier than it was before. No one seems to think twice about it now.

The reason I started this blog was as a personal writing assignment. I had high hopes of making every post an eloquent statement about life, complete with clever turns-of-phrases and witty observations of the common human experience, but it quickly turned into my nutty ramblings about blowjobs I got in the 80s. But that's OK, it makes me write. Actually, it lets me write knowing that other people are going to read it. (Try writing an entire novel and have nobody read it. It takes some getting over.) And I know that alot of other bloggers do this for the same reason. But right now, everybody and her cousin does it to some degree, whether they can write or not. Just spend some time at My Space to see what I mean.

Today, it occured to me that most people of a certain age think nothing of looking at videos every day online. And getting video on their phones. And uploading video. And I thought about the ramifications of that. Technology keeps moving ahead, and pretty soon the "video phones" I was promised by Walt Disney will be a reality on the internet or on some portable device you have implanted in your eyes in your choice of ever-changing colors, depending on your mood. And people will go to video-talking instead of writing on these devices for nearly everything, even the most mundane communication.

I think we are in the middle of a generational blip in history of when people went back to the written word for a lot of communication and expression. Especially expression. I don't think magazines and books will go away anytime soon, but everyday writing for recreation by the masses is on the way out. Again.

The people I read since I've started doing this are all great writers who have something to say. But I think that very soon the recreational writing of people who don't really care about the "art" of writing is going to end. People are just going to upload "wassup" videos and bad skits, and 95% of the blog world will be replaced with one big interactive, virtual-reality, multi-media, nudity-filled My Space account. Which is fine with me. Because it will make the 5% who are writers with something to say easier to find.


At 9:57 AM , Blogger ceeelcee said...

What's a synonym for "thesaurus?"

At 11:12 AM , Blogger Kat Coble said...

Sounds like you and I started blogging for the same reason.

At 11:18 AM , Blogger newscoma said...

I'm 40 years old.
I remember ye'ole typewriter in typing class. May it rot in hell.
Actually, I have been writing for a long time, although I have never aspired to write the great american novel. I wanted to be a Watergatesque sort of reporter.
Now I run a small newspaper, where I handle budgets and hear my employees about writing the next great American Novel.
For one, her idol is Danielle Steele (Hold on, I have to wretch.)
The other one is Harper Lee (much better.)
I like blogging because, in all honesty, it keeps me fresh and aware. And I can have typos with the publisher calling me. All I want, dammit.
Annoying autobiographical pause over. I'm sure your glad.
Incidentally, my first computer was a Commodore 54. A beaut, I tell you.

At 2:17 PM , Blogger saraclark said...

I can still hear the evil typing teacher in my head.

"A-S-D-F space J-K-L-;(sem) space"
the key chanting interspersed with the Whack! of her big yardstick on the desks.
God that sucked, but I can still do it without looking. I tend to bang the shit out of computer keyboards, I can't back up to the light touch they require.

At 2:59 PM , Blogger SistaSmiff said...

Mrs. Armstrong...the not so nice typing teacher at Brentwood HS...but dammit, I learned to type.

I'm with you, Knuck....we're writing everyday and we write cause we have to. Doesn't matter if it's about sackshul escapades in days gone by or heavy political stuff. It's a great outlet and almost every person who has thus far commented on this, are some of my favorite bloggahs.

At 8:00 PM , Blogger ceeelcee said...

As an ex-History major, I believe that nobody should be allowed to graduate from college without typing at least one 5-page paper on a typewriter, with footnotes.

Or I guess maybe they could just get tortured during fraternity rush instead...

Does anybody even use footnotes anymore in this era of the internet and universal knowledge?

At 8:42 PM , Blogger bridgett said...


Historians use footnotes all the time, usually in Chicago Style rather than the APA parenthetical style. Internet knowledge has to be footnoted too; unlike Melville's loose fish, "facts" don't belong to whoever can make them fast, since anything that is typed has an author and is a form of intellectual production.

My single claim to fame in seventh grade was that I could type over 100 wpm on a manual typewriter. I, too, beat the hell out of my keyboards.

At 6:37 AM , Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

I'm 31 and I made it all the way through college a few years back without writing a single paper on the computer. I had an old typewriter in my apartment that allowed me to smoke and drink while writing, and the crowded computer lab was never that appealing anyway. After a while it became a goal to make it through computer free.

Also, I still don't have a cell phone.

To be honest, I'm actually blogging on a modified toaster.


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