Writing is, at its core, a technology. It allows us to take our thoughts and arrange them spatially in the physical world. Living in a culture where this practice is an every day occurrence, the physical nature of writing fluidly becomes part of our consciousness. This is what the class project exposed for me. Having to “invent” a writing technology forced me to see the importance of being able to easily put down my thoughts and work with them visually.
At this very moment I am transferring thoughts into lines, shaping, moving, juggling them around on the familiar square format of the page. This is a process I wanted to allow for with my own invented technology. The ability to work with your thoughts and shape them, as an artist shapes clay or mixes paints, is the most important asset of writing.
The project called for the use of “natural” materials to write up to 20 words. The first hurdle then was to try to find something as natural as possible. I had a little fun looking up the world “natural” in a thesaurus as a starting point for ideas. “Usual,” “normal,” “accepted,” “ordinary,” stuck out immediately. Writing as a technology has evolved to the point where it might fit with these words.
“Innate” and “effortless” were the next two words in my thesaurus. Certainly writing has become effortless in recent years, with the advent of the computer. You can erase, move, copy, and write at blinding speed. Effortless is definitely a word I would use – but not for my invented technology. “Physical, biological, environmental.” These were words that were closest to what I was aiming for.
With “biological” fueling my search, I went outside to scope out candidates to become my writing technology. The main goal I had for my technology was to allow the user to spatially organize his/her thoughts. With this in mind I pruned a few straight branches off a wild grape vine near my apartment. As mainly a computer based writer, I was thinking in terms of font – all the letters of the alphabet could be crudely formed with straight lines. I pictured the blocky green on black letters of the first computers I had learned to type on. To this end I broke the grape branches into relatively even sections and arranged them on the kitchen table. A flat surface and these broken twigs were my basic writing technology. Obviously I would be limited by the amount of sticks I carried with me, and there would be little value in terms of permanence, but I could shape my thoughts!
The act of actually writing something with my technology was extremely slow, and I came to the conclusion that a strong gust if wind would probably blow all my work away. There was a definite sense of physical work involved with this method of writing. Unlike using a computer or pen and paper, I was constantly aware of the act of writing with my sticks. More modern forms of writing were so easy and fluid that once you...