Sometimes the best way to get started with something new is to jump into something old and rethink it. Writing letters–really, reeeeeeally long and extravagantly detailed letters–to my friends and loved ones was a favored pastime for me in my youth, and only transmuted (rather than muted) over time. It’s not necessarily that I had so much to say, nor that it was terribly original, it was simply a pleasant way to keep my sense of the connection between us open and flowing freely. It was Relationship Anticoagulant for me, in its way. Most particularly because I happened to have friends and loved ones who indulged me by writing letters back in my direction.
Yes, the telephone had already been invented when I was young. (I heard that!) My letters weren’t even delivered by Pony Express, let alone chiseled on stone tablets, though those would’ve made nice doorstops, once read. But as I have never liked telephone chitchat overmuch and have always had a slight tendency toward commentary that could perhaps stand a little more editorial restraint, and most of all because I am so defined by my visual experiences, a written, tangible and yes, correctable medium like a letter suited my personality more.
I think it was at least partly that that led to my downhill slide into essays, poems, short stories and the various other Dark Magicks of creative writing. Maybe I thought that developing my fictional skills would make my long letters more entertaining and excuse their verbosity. But of course, when the mystical world of the internet appeared before me, it was inevitable that I should embrace its friendliness towards the mass production of verbiage and the speedy transport thereof unto all and sundry. “All” being my actual known connexions and “sundry” being anybody else who was incidentally caught in the overspray. The latter being people who, if they foolishly responded to my wildly flung words, were likely to get sucked right into the vast vacuum of joining my poor captive audience if I could manage it at all.
When I figured out how to put visual images along with all of the wordy wonders, then Boy Howdy, I was off on a new tangent. And you’ve all seen just how tangential I can become. Why, just the other day . . . oh, see, there I go again. The additional enhancement of putting pictures with stories need not be examined here. You and I know that the telling of a tale not only frequently requires images for completeness and clarity but sometimes is enhanced and enriched by the presence of visual cues that lead the reader to start thinking about the stories tangentially as well.
I was of course drawn* in immediately by artists’, photographers’, designers’ and other visually rich websites and blogs (*this pun’s for you, yearstricken). Then I felt the magnetic, hypnotic pull of foodie blogs, with their perniciously gorgeous food photography. Glorious gardens and magnificent architectural edifices reached out of the ether to grasp at my ankles as I passed. Tripping, I dropped into the well of travelogues and vehicle- and furniture-restoration sites and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! It was the beginning of the end for this visually obsessed fool. Pretty soon I was swapping recipes and anecdotes, recitations and antidotes with all of my new Old Friends. I almost made a Freudian typo there and wrote Fiends, because of course I have been enchanted and enslaved by you all and am now helplessly in thrall, thirsting after the goodies you dangle in front of me on your every post until I succumb and retaliate with posts of my own.
So here we all are, the relatively new digital tools in hand, cooking up marvelous messes of every sort and, far from being penitent, diving ever deeper into the strange and cheerfully dangerous tangles of what we are collectively wreaking upon the unsuspecting of the world. What began as relatively innocent missives to sisters and schoolmates, great aunts and great mentors has evolved into a different sort of Post that explodes with the weird and whimsical, the frightening or florid or sometimes just plain fishy, and whether factual or fictional, wanders the globe and the magnificent bubble of nonsense surrounding it, and the old urge to write a letter is made new again.
Now, I’ll readily admit that it’s every bit as possible to create fodder for the dustbin as it was all those centuries ago when I began writing my small-world tall tales and detailing them with quaint and creaky little scratches of “art”, and I’m quite certain that there’s no more sense and treasure sneaking in the hidden corners of my productions than there ever was. But I do find that the wider range of correspondents who really do have something to say in return, and the pleasures of the process of learning and using new and different tools for the conversation, immensely entertaining, energizing and inspiring. And I’d say that’s a paint pot of a different color.