Friday, February 22, 2008

Salt Peter and Nanotubes

Hi! Coffee refill? Regular or unleaded? I guess you’ve been listening to the kids at the counter, huh? I suppose everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are young yet. They’ll learn.
If I recall correctly, the original statement was on how writing has changed since the Age of Microprocessors and Computers began. Well, when you become as jaded as I am, kid, you’ll know that writing hasn’t changed since Ogetta the cave woman in a flash of inspiration, drew her handprint on the wall in Lascaux France. As soon as her husband Og saw it, he moved in on her creativity and decided to paint his hand up there …and well…you know how it went from there.
The point is that Ogetta took up a tool and put a thought in a place that lasted centuries. In her case the tool was a smushed up bunch of raspberries or a burnt piece of Og’s old britches. In Nefertiti’s time it was the boiled down husk of beans, in Jane Austin’s time, it was salt peter and copper dust. These days it is carbon from nanotubes that produce electrically conductive patterns. The optimal word here is tools. I can write a Pulitzer Prize winning book using iron gall or an IBM Selectric. I still have to do the sitting down and the slitting of vein to write readable copy.
The stuff of great novels is stored in one place, and one place only, our imaginations. It is the intuition of thought, the quantum leap of logic, the song of the muse, what ever you want to call it, it is the creative thought process in the mind that matters in writing, and the tools matter not one whit.
True, computers make containing the paper work easier, as long as the hard drive does not fail, the electricity bill is paid, your font does not change, MSWord does not update…so, better keep a paper copy as well, just for back up…
There is a lot to be said for the archaic writing tools of pen and paper. The most idyllic times for me to write are in the warming sun of the early morning, when the tea pot is full, and the only thing that breaks the silence is the light scratch of my pen across the paper, undisturbed by the hum crunch of electronics.
I’ll put your lunch order in, but as you contemplate your grill cheese, remember what the great literary writer Peter De Vries said. “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”


  1. Love that quote, China!


  2. Hey China,
    Excellent post! I agree with you--the stuff of great novels is in our imaginations.

  3. While computers might not have changed storytelling, I bet there are a lot of writers who wouldn't have kept at it if they had to do it on typewriters or longhand...and it's possible I'm one of them! I can't even imagine revising with a typewriter now that I have computers!

    Jody W.

  4. Snerk! Ogetta! I do believe that is a totally accurate picture of what happened in France!


    Great post China. Good to keep thinkgs in perspective. We still hold the stories within ourselves.