Friday, May 28, 2010

no trees were harmed in the posting of this blog

Back when I first started writing, everything was done on paper. At my first job, I can remember how nice it was when I got to use my first electric typewriter. Electric typewriters were particularly good because you didn't have to be exceedingly strong to make decent carbon copies. Carbon paper was also something we used back then.

Sometimes when I talk to kids, I'll show them a typewriter and ask if any of them has ever used one. I don't have any carbon paper any more, though.

It wasn't actually too long ago when I got talked into/decided to get my first novel published, and even then it was still a paper publishing world. The horrible query letter that I sent to my agent was on paper, and it included a self-addressed stamped envelope which was thankfully never used, so I guess my agent got a stamp AND me. I probably should have thrown in a Honus Wagner card or something, just to make it fair for her.

Ultimately, I had to also print out that novel and send the entire thing to her. It did eventually get published, but I had to print out several copies that ended up on desks somewhere in New York.

Lots and lots of paper.

I don't print out anything I write anymore. Since those days, I'm pretty sure everything has gone electronic. My editor tells me that you can't tell an editor from a Kindle fan on the subway any longer, because editors aren't carrying around great rubber-banded heaps of paper, too.

Still, there's something that really appeals to the minimalist in me when I look at plain pages with print on them.

I thought about this for two reasons. First, I was sitting with a friend last week and he asked me about how frequently I save copies of things when I write. I told him about every 50 pages or so, I go through a ritual: burning and hiding CDs, mailing multiple copies to different email addresses, and so on. And he said, fifty pages? That's a lot to make up if you lose it.

Yeah. Not really.

Then I was thinking about pages for another reason, too. A kind of convoluted smith-mind-trip reason. Yeah. Here it is: I love listening to music, especially obscure, independent music. Some of the stuff I listen to is very sparse and minimalist: often just a voice and one acoustic guitar -- something like that. But some of it, and you can probably think of examples, is so entwined with modern technology that the music simply could not be replicated in the absence of all kinds of gadgets and wires and panels.

So I was wondering if the emerging e-book/iPad thing was going to have the same effect on storytelling, too: that the technology would become so interlaced with the process that the "words" part couldn't stand alone in the absence of the microprocessor part. You know, maybe you'll be reading about a bomb going off and your iPad will shake like a Playstation controller... something like that.

I am not excited by the prospect.

And as ridiculous as that sounds, it is going to happen.

But those guys who get out there and write and sing with just their voice and acoustics still have audiences, so I guess there will always be people around who just like sitting around with a few squiggly black lines on a blank white page, too.