I was listening (with about half an ear, usually) to the Digital Generation special they have been doing on NPR this morning. Today they spoke with some 44-year-old art therapist who completely disdains computers because they make art too easy. His mentor, who is 84 or something like, believes the same thing. Her I can forgive, maybe, due to her age. He should know better.
This attitude infuriates me. It's exactly the sort of thing that made me avoid writing classes in school, that made me think I had to focus on something else for a career, because writing for me was too easy. It came naturally - therefore I should do something else that was more work. What the fuck? What kind of attitude is that? It is very closely related to that voice in my head that tells me "Give up, you'll never be happy. Why do you want to be, anyway? Your work will never mean anything unless you suffer for it. If you're happy, it's worthless. If you're happy, you're not doing it right."
Do you want to know what one of his main problems was? He couldn't cope with the pointing device being called a "mouse," after something real. After something real. *blink* Hello, prejudice - computer mice are perfectly real. I would expect an artist to be a little more flexible than that. But no, he proudly kicked the machine his daughter gave him off the back porch in a fit of self-righteousness that someone would use a word to mean -- more than one thing? both an animate and inanimate object? a mammal and a machine? Whatever...
But leaving aside his personal anti-tech stance, which I can allow as his opinion even though I think it is dumb, he also appears to claim that no-one who uses a computer has any (or an) imagination. Why? Because clients come to him, and they have immersed themselves in video games to the point of social dysfunction. He seems to have completely missed the fact that he is dealing with a biased sample. He is seeing people who already have problems.
They could have been raised in a barn by wolves, or in the middle of the jungle, or fifty years ago before the internet was much to look at, and they would still be people with problems. That's his client base, after all. If it wasn't video games, it would be television - remember how TV violence was the bane of society, back before violent video games took over that cultural slot? If it wasn't TV, it would have been books. Or radio, or something else - there have always been places for introverts to retreat into, little trainspotting hobbies of varying degrees of obsessiveness.
To me, it sounds a lot like the folks who whine that activities like NaNoWriMo just let the riff-raff into the sanctum sanctorum where the Real Writers hang out. Which to me smacks of low self-esteem and lack of confidence in one's work, or perhaps simply mean-spirited peevishness. Real Writers aren't so threatened by other people's talent as to try to quash any future competition, I don't think.
Yes, I get as tired of bad stuff, or things that strike me as banal, as Harlan Ellison or Charles Bukowski. But it isn't my job as a fellow writer to say "if it doesn't burst out of you, don't do it" or variations on that theme. That sort of thing is the job of the editor, I feel, and the rejection should fall squarely on the work rather than the person. Contrary to what they might personally think, I doubt either one of the men above leapt onto the scene in the full flower of their creativity. In Ellison's case I've read enough (almost all) of his work to know that as he wrote more, he got better. I admit this is kind of tangential to my original peeve, but it is related. You're not going to get better crafted written work by telling people to stop writing if they aren't any good.
I know that's probably kind of funny to hear me say, but one of the few things I have confidence in is my writing. I am not particularly confident that any one other editor-type person will agree with me, so I'm not completely certain of its salability, say - but I am certain of its worth and validity in comparison to other work. My mother, probably in an effort to spare me... something, used to say that she thought people who made a successful career of writing had some drive in them that most people didn't have. Oh, I thought. I must not be a writer after all then.
Except that I write every day, except on very rare occasions. Not always much, but usually something. I write on all sorts of things, in the margins of my crossword book, on the back of ATM slips, in Moleskein notebooks, on my hand with ink pens, with the sooty ends of matches at times... I don't feel particularly driven, though. Somewhere along the line I came to realize that while it isn't terribly driven seeming in here, in my head, it might possibly look driven from the outside. So maybe I am a writer after all.
Whatever, I write things, whatever you want to call me. I said in a biography once that I ooze poetry, because it just comes out, whether I want it to or not. And like anything oozy, there are times when it is damned inconvenient. And I use computers, to write, and for other things, and my imagination is just fine, thank you. I've certainly got more imagination than someone who can't stretch his definition of mouse any further than the rodent.
Aside: you see why I'm leery of having kids? The majority of the crap people put me though in childhood was meant to be beneficial, I'm sure, as surely as it turned out the opposite. I'm nigh certain I'd break anyone I was trying to teach about life when I was just trying to help. How can I not, when I'm still furious about things that happened 30-odd years ago?