Writing takes me naturally rightwards.
I wonder in an instant what might go on in a writer's head who habitually writes leftwards, or downwards, once asked to compose in what for me seems a natural direction.
Presented with a page, or at least this blog's page arranged in portrait, I lose myself in landscape, in emotion, in dialogue...
The page becomes an abstraction. It is a lure. The page has more presence than we can imagine.
Ceci n'est pas une page.
An indication of how a blog page is far from neutral shrieked out at me when when I was invited to write for Edcontexts.
I was writing in unfamiliar surroundings.
It was like playing cello on a borrowed instrument.
Something was wrong.
OK, it was a blog editor pretty much like any other blog editor, but the formating was all wrong.
I was away from home.
The title which emerged can be read on a number of levels: 'Writing to order.'
So all of this is background for my current foregrounded dialogue with Kevin Hodgson which concerns what it is to write in a digital context.
Exploring this question, a number of blog posts, scribbles and sketches are emerging.
They are a continuation of exploratory work that I have been doing since Rhizo14.
I have been lurking on the periphery of #digiwrimo, which I have understood to be an investigation into digital storytelling or writing.
Browsing hashtags (that seems so natural to me now) I came across #25wordstory.
I have to say that Twitter and haiku both appeal to me for their imposed length constraints, so #25wordstory seemed like fun.
The #25wordstory which came out of this challenge was an investigation into the feeling of constraint. It was the spark for a new story game, based on a Soduku grid sort of affair.
I set up a #25word by #25word Google spreadsheet and wrote my story across the top of the sheet.
The fact of each word being separated in a self-contained cell distorted the flow of the writing.
The movement of the cursor from cell to cell changed the relationship with the story.
Immediately a range of questions and emotions were provoked:
C'est du Kafka
I felt emprisoned by the frame.
I felt crab-like or insect-like in my movement.
Images of Kafkaesque metamorphosis crept out of the page.
“What's happened to me,' he thought. It was no dream.”
I felt a certain degree of claustrophobia.
I felt a sudden paranoia when I was joined in the page by a number of anonymous animals.
The arrival of Kevin in the sheet, lifted the feeling of paranoia. It is extraordinary how a recognisable avatar can give a feeling of security.
Kevin started playing with the constaints, writing stories diagonally, changing unannounced rules.
Yes, the rules what were the rules?
Caught in the grid, it seemed that we were indeed in a game with implicit rules.
This impression was confirmed to me when Susan Watson, I think it was, asked me whether there were any rules?
Following the explorations of Kevin in real time, I saw steps, moutains, slopes, appear graphically across the sheet.
The grid now had contours. What the hell was/is the story?
The story/ies climbed 'up' the sheet.
This is one of the reasons that when Kevin talked of it being a "view from above" I was not at all sure that I was looking from above or was inside the story, or whether the sheet was struggling to find a third or fourth dimension. If pushed, I would venture fourth dimension.
Maybe I'm amazed?
Tanya appeared in the Twitter stream, and joined in the fun, and discussion sparked around what on earth we were doing in a spreadsheet.
Well I had not really thought through the choice of a spreadsheet, it just appealed to me.
It was like trying to walk, write or read, through a maze, she said.
I myself had a similar impression as words appeared to connect vertically down columns, across rows and diagonally up and down yellow hills.
Fragments of stories, unusual combinations of verbs, feelings, prepositions stuck incongrously together hitting up against the frame of grammar, sense, and the spreadsheet enclosure.
I suddenly started seeing how apparently absurd constraints were releasing more creative possibilities.
Always the same questions of convention, language, writing, game-play, puzzle, authorship, presence and freedom rose up out of the cells.
What was/is freedom?
Kevin wrote of considering these stories as landscapes. I feel that these spaces are more than landscapes, they are strange actors in a Greek play, masked, choral, disturbing.
We are haphazard intruders in a strangely unfamiliar land, a narrative land that we take too much and too quickly as read.
I feel we are bumping up against the constraints of our prisons, our homes?
This is perhaps a first and an only step that we can knowingly take towards a relative and unsatisfactory freedom.
Someone, I don't know who, had written a word...
across five columns.
I suspect the fifth column. [find hidden link]
OMG it is, we are, they are, he/she is the FIFTH COLUMN.
"I had no choice except to write myself out."