Every generation experiences the arrival of some new amazing, unimaginable technological wonder which becomes commonplace for the generation born just after. My grandparents sat around the radio. Radio for my mother was understood. She experienced the arrival of television while I was raised on daily doses of sitcoms. The arrival of the internet and digital media, not to mention cell phones is what my generation has had the pleasure of experiencing with awe and wonder. My nephews will not have such awe. At one year old, they were both pulling up apps on their mother’s iPhone and playing games with their fingertips. Seeing such things makes me wonder how media will affect the younger generations ability to focus? And how does it change the way we tell and process stories?
I remember the quality of my thoughts as a child growing up in a big country house in rural Tennessee where darkness fell hard at night and there were no tiny blinking lights from devices quietly charging in corners. It was a beautiful time, before Google had mapped all of Earth. A time when you called someone you let the phone ring twelve or more times because it was the only phone in the house. Those were the days when a cloud was only precipitation about to fall, not a universal storage unit for humanity’s externalized intelligence.
There once was a time when TV show came on once a week for only one hour, sometimes never to be seen again and TV actually stopped flowing at some point in the night with the rainbow bars of the emergency broadcast system. It was not possible to consume eight hours of episodic television all in one sitting back when I was a child. In those days my thoughts traveled at a river’s pace, flowing with a logic easy enough to paddle back and follow if needed. The texture and color of my dreams reflected organic material like trees, grass, fabric, not the ultra-bright computer generated imagery I experience today.
The speed of thought to day has increased to a pace beyond description because of clickable technology. Today when I close my eyes to fall asleep, my thoughts jump, scroll, blink, and upload in ways they never could as a child. The way I think today mirrors the experience of web surfing and because these technologies were introduced in my lifetime, I am aware of their effects on the nature of my mind and my ability to focus, as well as how it influences WHAT I focus on. (Is this article searchable? How do the key words here rank?)
Stories used to be told by firelight. Many films and TV shows today idealize that very act of primitive times- romanticizing the days before digital. We are drawn to historical fiction and fantasy where horses are ridden and messages take days to arrive because in our hearts we sense something great value may be slipping away as we embed more and more into digital thinking. How much time do you spend sitting at a fireplace or lying on dirt or grass? More often than not, we spend more time watching visuals of actors doing such things instead of engaging in them ourselves.
Have you ever clicked your car’s locking and unlocking device at your front door, thinking for a second it would open? I have. Have you ever put your finger on a sentence in a hard-back book to try and highlight it the way you can with a tablet? I have. How about when your driving around the city and your phone dies and you realize you have no idea how to get home without GPS? Yep, I’ve been there. As we blend with advancements and conveniences
This technological climate is a fascinating and unstoppable journey which I am certainly thrilled to be on! But I also feel the digital culture needs to be tempered by the timeless values of patience and process that only Nature can provide. I will try to keep up with the digital age as best I can but I also feel an impulse to refrain, unplug, and log out, to return to the Smokey Mountain simplicities of slower times.
So, I propose a challenge. Designate one day a month to go completely off-line. See how long you can go without TV, phone, or computer. See what your brain does when faced with no digital visuals for eight hours or more. Don’t take your phone on that hike. Don’t check on-line for the meal you are cooking. If you don’t break out in hives and survive, you may discover some buried skill that satisfies you much more than couch surfing. If you can break past the fidgety withdrawal that is sure to come, what kind of world do you find waiting on the other side of your modern mind?
If you have not yet met Ged, you have a wonderful, wise teacher waiting for you in Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books. Beginning with The Wizard of Earthsea and ending with Tehanu, these books offer a timeless wisdom, relevant in any age.
Here is a reblog of an article announcing an anthology and discussing the dragons that will be found there in.
By Ursula K. LeGuin via Book View Cafe:
116. The Big Book of Earthsea
Saga has officially announced that they’ll publish all Earthsea in one volume in 2018 — a grand present for a Wizard’s fiftieth birthday.
When Joe Monti first proposed this edition to me, I was happy to think of the six books of Earthsea, Ged and Tenar’s whole story, all truly together at last — but I worried about how much it would weigh.
I read lying down. I know what a Giant Tome can do to your arms and shoulders. Not to mention your solar plexus.
Sometimes what happens next in my story scrolls out like a movie in my head. On those days my job is dictation and I just describe to the best of my ability what I see scrolling by on my mind screen. Those are the days I live for. When the metavisuals are not flowing, I like to read books on writing. I like to read books that are written by editors rather than writers because how-to books written by writers often focus on celebrating the writers achievements and miss discussing practical tools to get a story built. Here is a book that is giving me some useful food for thought. And I’m going to summarize the 20 plots he discusses- just as a way of relaxing…
The following is a comprehensive list of possible plots and how best to construct them. Why would we want to make such a list? To save time. There really are only a handful of plots and there really is no reason to try and invent a new one. Putting energy into crafting one of the existing universal plots in a new and modern way is really the work we are all about as writers. So lets get very familiar with the tried and true plots that have gripped us since time out of mind. The short list:
Three days ago I spent all day in the act of physically writing. A flood gate opened and I was ready for it. Then Saturday and Sunday and a Monday holiday rolled on and here I am on Tuesday at 3:10pm still fighting my way back to the story at hand. Physical fatigue dictated the day as follows.
Woke, laid in bed like an anvil, crawled out of bed, ate a muffin, wobbled around the house, laid back down again for a deep nap. Woke again. Now I’m getting frustrated. but I know better than to let that happen because getting frustrated, getting angry, crying all takes energy and I need my energy. My job becomes to remain calm.
How to outline your novel
Structure. Structure. Structure. If you want to build something, you need a plan. It may very well be that you find your way to the outlining process the long hard way like I did. Most people teaching writing – for some inexplicable reason- do not know how to explain the function of outlining. This is not the case for Nicole Criona of LA Writers Group. What follows below is the very practical information I’ve learned from her classes about what an outline should have in it and why. If you can understand its function- you will LOVE outlining because it is the key to getting your story flowing to a completed work.
Outlining is like learning the alphabet of storytelling. Remember when you didn’t know how to read? Letters and words were mysterious. You could hear them and understand them when spoken but when it came to reading — the information was elusive. The same is true for learning how to write a story. You need to become outline literate. It will set you free. If you do not know where to begin and end you will write beautiful words into eternity that will not hold anyones attention.
To hold people’s attention- including your own- there are key events every story needs to be a story. Here are those points:
Outline Structure Per Plot Point
The process of getting started.
Writing a book that takes place on another planet causes quite a commute for me. Every day I get up, open the curtains, make the bed and then lie back down in that bed and stare off into space. There are a million different tiny invisible obstacles preventing me from traveling back to the world of my story. I have to work like hell to get back to a city that does not really exist except in the elusive stillness of my imagination. When I finally do arrive into the streaming flow of comprehension of this far away place, I only have maybe two or three hours there before I’m tossed back to Earth. Dinner time. And the next day it starts all over again.
It can feel like that guy who had to roll a boulder up a hill forever… But this is what I try to keep in mind- This day does not need to be amazing. Or rather… what will be amazing about this day will not be the same thing as yesterday. Today is new and different. It has never happened before and it will never happen again in this way.