Kindles and creativity
I was on the train at the weekend and had a series of interesting musings I would like to share.
Firstly there’s my kindle. I love it and its portable thousands of books (or in my case, dozens). It is marvellous on buses, train, thrown forgotten into my bag and providing me with salvation at the dullest moments. I’ve already waxed lyrical about its portability and travel-friendly aspects in the past. What I’ve also discovered is, if I upload a few novels at a time, I read at a voracious speed matched only by my teenage summers of boredom and weekly library trips.
Here’s the catch. I’m reading a book a week on average- some brilliant, others fun, a few painful- but I can’t remember which is which. It’s a terrible insult to the range of plots and writing styles but with no visual representation of either a cover illustration or even the different ways a book feels in your hand I can’t retain the differences. The texture of the matt cover, the raised print of the author’s name, the yellowing pages and smell of paper, the creased spine and turned down pages: all of these small triggers that tie the storyline of a novel with what you read are lost by the kindle. The last six novels I’ve read have become one James Joycean pastiche in my head. I have stared at a list of book names, knowing that I have read all of the books and yet I can’t remember which was about the interconnected people’s lives; which about the man going deaf; the physicist or the love story. I finish a book with that knowledge that I must read something else by this author and yet my brain struggles to remember the author’s name.
Which brings me to my next point. Despite this modern age of information, are we necessarily more well-informed? We pull out our smartphones, as the wonderful Stephen Fry discussed on Planet Word, simply to get some background information on a political situation we’ve seen in the news, a country we’ve seen in a travel programme or an actress whose face we vaguely recognise. We demand answers instantaneously and yet we are no more the wiser for it.
I find myself surfing endless pointless Youtube clips when I should be studying, getting sidetracked by friends photos when I simply meant to leave a quick message on Facebook, and simply frittering my life away. That isn’t to say I was ultraproductive before the internet. Sure I wasted my time but I read a lot more books, I made cakes, I made cards and dreamed about the novels I write. These days a quick search shows me dozens of websites for aspiring writers, photographers, artists. Most of them are better than my best efforts and they are by in large unpaid amateurs. Perhaps if I had that American competitive edge this would spur me on, but instead I find myself somewhat depressed and lethargic. How can you compete with that much talent and creativity? How can you be so arrogant as to presume your own tiny abilities are anywhere near theirs? Pessimistic I know.
So does the internet and the plethora of information make us more depressed? I have read a few account that it does. We all have Facebook envy of other people’s lives. And I know many people, myself included, who have wasted precious hours of their lives lining up triplets of jewels, helping a block get out or slicing fruit. I am then inevitably frustrated that I have wasted these swathes of precious time on something that is so painfully pointless. If everyone who played Cooking Mama actually devoted that time to making healthy family meals, we would be a healthier nation. If everyone playing Guitar Hero actually devoted that time to practising a musical instrument they would be good. Does everything have to be a flashy game to hold our attention these days? The internet does seem to be designed for procrastinators. (Dave Gorman makes a living out of highlighting how we can all lose hours of our lives on this activity).
For example I’ve moved to a loved area in Southsea facing the English Channel. We have uninterrupted views of a grassy common with the shoreline off in the distance. People walk, run, play football, play with kites and dogs; there are yachts and ferries going by; there’s a library, gym and half a dozen coffee shops within walking distance of our flat and yet in my free time I sit inside and surf the internet. It always starts with something simple. I want to write a friend an email. Then I remember I should check my bank balance online. I wonder if that voucher they gave me in Boots is still valid. On the Boots website I am lured to the jewellery section. I peruse Ebay to see if there’s a cheaper option available. This reminds me of my friend who makes jewellery and I’m on Facebook checking out her page. I see her wedding photos and I think about another friend’s wedding. Two hours down the line from writing an email and I’m looking at how much it costs to have a wedding in Disneyland Paris. Huh?!
And so it should be of no surprise that I could only come to this rant, to the writing again when I was forced to switch off. A 3 hour train ride and a not so rivetting novel sends you back into the depths of thinking. Reflecting even. How bizarre. How refreshing. Perhaps that’s what we should all be doing. Switching off. Or getting out. With wireless becoming so prevalent however, will that even be possible in the future?