Writing is Time Travel

[Lake District, England, Summer 2002: Wrote some really bad poetry in that journal on top of the Loughrigg Fell watching the sun go down.]

The last class of every semester in English 101 I always give this quick little talk about how writing is time travel.

Let me explain: Future generations will get the opportunity to read our words in notebook, RTF, doc, and other forms and see what life was like during that period. It’s a way for our future relatives to see how we lived. What I’m interested in is tracking the future of how stories get told and how that’s changed. 

The first obvious answer is the internet has altered a lot of how we tell stories–as well as how we read. But while people are reading now more than ever we’ve become skimmers of what’s on the screen. There was an article about Generation Oregon Trail or Xennial where people who were born in the early 1980s–80, 81, 82, 83–grew up on the bleeding edge of technology’s effect on storytelling and writing. We’re hybrids who learned to write on typewriters and then transitioned to household computers. I remember our first computer came home in 1992. It ran MS DOS. Then it was the Gateway 2000 in 1994. I was in eighth grade it played Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Duke Nukem. You can play those on your cell-phone now. 

I started writing comics on that computer–adapting the “Terminal Velocity” arc in The Flash into prose.

It’s how I learned how to write.

Now I’m in one of those halfway places. I had to handwrite everything, then type it, editing between each draft then printing and editing each time. That’s how the five-draft method developed. I suppose that is just one of the tools that I use, but I’m always tracking the different ways people engage in this sort of thing. Always looking for a way to improve my writing. 

I suppose that’s why I’m typing this collection on Scrivener. Part of me feels like I’m betraying my first nature to hand write and then type into Microsoft Word, but that’s what I’ve always done and this seems like it’s a new way to collect everything in one place and take what I’m working on wherever I go. That’s the future of storytelling. My son’s children will be able to load my Scrivener file and look at all my daybooks, going back to 2012, and probably even before with my leather-bound journals still in my parents’ bookshelves. 

You could say I’m in that in-between stage of analog and digital with a strong root in the analog because I dislike being in front of a screen all day. Working with your hands feels like work. 

That’s the future I track: how people tell stories through technology and how they use it to manage their work. Like Warren Ellis serializing his third novel NORMAL in four parts as a Kindle Single. I guess the future of my storytelling–that I came up with just now–is intersecting writing mediums. A desire to be a medium ( and genre)-bender with nonfiction, fiction, and comics. Can I be good at all of it? That’s where I’m headed, like Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Margaret Atwood, Benjamin Percy, G. Willow Wilson, and today–Charles Soule. 

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