Following on from thinking last week about culture and creativity, and the relationship between the unreal computer world, and real arts. I’ve noticed a thing. I’ve become accustomed to the ways computers and the net operate. The back button. The undo function. The search facility. There are times when, in normal working, it occurs to me to want one of these features. Real life doesn’t have a back button.
We’ve been set building recently, for the school’s upcoming production. All very low tech, lots of cardboard and paint. No ‘undo’ option there either. A mistake means doing it again, or accepting the flaw. It’s such a radically different way of working.
Of course most people for most of human history have done without search engines, and undo buttons. Most human invention has been undertaken with no way back if you mess it up. I wonder what the ease of undoing most of our work does for modern creativity? Is it a good and useful thing, or does it make us slack?
Over the last couple of years I’ve gone back to using paper for some projects. It frees me from needing the computer on and enables me to work in different places. It also requires me to focus my mind. I don’t have the world’s best handwriting, for a start. But I’ve noticed a peculiar thing. My typos are creeping into my writing. I sometimes write ‘jsut’ by mistake. I have no idea why this is happening, and it bothers me. My spelling isn’t great, and although spellchecker has helped me improve, I do wonder about the written mistakes that came from typos.
It takes a lot more discipline to write, or practice any art without the safety net of a back button. There’s a requirement for attention to detail. There’s so much difference between art made in the moment – the live performance, the hand written book, the hand drawn art, and something you can undo and redo to your heart’s content. There are of course good things about being able to polish and improve, but it can make us lazy. It’s easy to develop a throw something together now, fix it later policy.
And the over-polished can start to look, sound a bit unreal. Last night I heard a live recording of the current chart topper, Oliver Twist. Live it had a wild, almost anarchic and joyful quality far more vivid than anything in the cleanly recorded and carefully produced ‘proper’ version.
One of the reasons I like folk, is because I like things that are a bit more real, and a bit less shiny. Unshiny, from a writing perspective, may mean technically awry, but it can mean having all the idiosyncrasies and unique features of voice ironed out of it to make the work sound standard and anonymous. I’m no fan of that. Fortunately, the computers are not yet trying to do that to me.
Now, what has the spellchecker spotted?