It has been argued that a chronic fever of distraction and fascination arrives on waves of Wi-Fi to stunt our attention spans, encouraging writers to paddle about, tweeting and liking, instead of striking out for deeper waters. As a writer who writes about writers, I struggle with this surfeit of ideas and impressions myself, but I also can see this so-called malady from a different point of view, through the prism of history. Authors, after all, have always sought the means to build bridges between the world and the page. Wi-Fi, Google Docs, social networks and even smartphones and other gadgets are just the most recent means of doing so. While they can distract us with their bells and whistles, they also provide powerful tools for gathering information, tracking renegade thoughts and inspirations and disciplining the flow of words and ideas.
The impulse to connect to the outside world is an ancient one.
Writers have always welcomed this intervention and inspiration of the world in the work of composition. Early-modern European authors had their commonplace books: journals they filled with excerpts from classical and modern works, snippets of journalism and reflections gleaned from daily life. More than a mere journal, the commonplace book can be thought of as a paper-based interface for the social world of letters, in which Enlightenment-era writers continuously added, combined and swapped out snippets of found text gleaned from such new media as newspapers, broadsides and learned journals.
Matthew Battles considers how writers interact with the world. Indeed, the medieval florilegium was the literary Tumblr of its day and Voltaire’s Republic of Letters was primordial Facebook. (via explore-blog)
I love this sentiment, and bravo (brava? bravi?) to explore-blog for elaborating upon it! Read all of it— you won’t regret it.
Cool link alert. A new women’s magazine in Brooklyn needs interns for the summer! It’s PAID. You can work remotely or, if you’re local, in their office. Ladies of the writing variety, holler at this.
…get your shit together…