After his initial surge of creativity at the end of the Seventies, Elvis Costello, as he personally stated, came to the conclusion that he needed to constantly and on purpose invite chaos into his life so that he could continue his creative streak. It seems that worked, at least for a while — some of his best albums like “Get Happy!!”, “Imperial Bedroom” and “Blood and Chocolate” came during that period.
On “Punch The Clock” from 1983, one of the albums from that period he came up with probably one of his best songs — ‘Everyday I Write A Book”, where, among other things he (writes) and sings:
“The way you walk, the way you talk and try to kiss me
And laugh in four or five paragraphs
All your compliments and your cutting remarks
Are captured here in my quotation marks
I’m giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday, everyday, everyday
Everyday I write the book
Everyday I write the book”
So Costello thought that it was chaos, his own and personal, that was needed to inspire him to write. Some other artists and writers didn’t necessarily need to invite it — chaos came on its own volition.
In both cases, it was inspirational. And certainly damaging in many aspects. But while on one hand, such events and people that create them, including yourself, can become an eternal source of inspiration, the effects of chaos oil your life could also have a damning effect on your inspiration and writing.
Dire circumstances, whether it is Costello or Charles Bukowski are not something that somebody should purposefully invite onto themselves to have them as a source of any kind of inspiration. At some point, they will arrive announced anyway. It is just a matter whether you will be able to use them as something that will produce meaningful writing or something that will force you to abandon writing completely. Everybody should certainly hope it will be the former.
There has been a quite extensive debate going on recently whether listening to audiobooks is the same thing as actually reading the book. Quite a few arguments are presented claiming that, on one hand, just listening might be a step closer to illiteracy, while on the other, it is said that listening to audiobooks is actually the same, even better.
[Listening to Audiobooks Is Just As Good As Reading, If Not Better, So Back the Hell Off | The New Yorker](https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/listening-to-audiobooks-is-just-as-good-as-reading-if-not-better-so-back-the-hell-off)
It is probably a debate that is not going to be over soon — which is ’the real thing’ and which is just a bad substitute, as The Who would sing about in one of their best songs, that unfortunately turned out to be great, but just a substitute for a popular hit.
On the other hand, the debate, if there is one, whether writing by hand and even typing are the same as text processing is quite subdued. No matter the fact that text processing sounds as such a mechanical term, as you are sticking your words into a meat grinder or a food processor, with disregard what will come out, as if it something that doesn’t really depend on the writer, but on the manner in which he is coming up with his writing.
The thing is, we have no full comprehension yet in which manner a new technology or just a new technique has on our thought processes, including the one of creative (or not so creative) writing. Is one methodology a natural progression, does it only bring something new and advanced or does it phase out things that might be something we are so grown and accustomed to? Is text processing just a shoddy substitute of writing by hand or typing (nobody seemed to complain much when that switch was made), or is it just an outdated process that belongs to an old, or again, as The Who would say just a thing of the past, something that belongs to “My Generation”?
As with audiobooks vs. reading, with writing vs. text processing, there probably is no straight answer. To get to your computer and start ‘text processing’ those words you have to learn to read and write first. There’s at least ‘the obstacle’ to be able to recognise the letters on your keyboard, or screen. At least for now. There is a certain process involved in your conceiving and coming up with your thoughts materialising in front of your or somebody else’s eyes and that process evolves. Along with it so do the thoughts that we would like to present on paper or the computer screen, whether we like it or not.
Artificial intelligence is taking over everything it seems. Will it also take over writing?
I’ve no idea what the answer to that question could be. Probably nobody can really give it at this point in time, and this question and its answer as such certainly belong in the category of whether artificial intelligence can completely take over anything from humans. Turn us into any of the visions Kraftwerk were expressing through their music some forty years ago with their visionary album “The Man Machine”.
As AI is being developed, its lighting speed of development and capabilities of taking over human traits have left the debate mostly split into the camps of those who think it will enhance us and those who think it will destroy us. And that certainly includes our ability to think, create, write.
The AI is here, it certainly will not go away and it is obviously taking over human traits at a staggering pace. That is also quite obvious in the field of what we call creative arts, visual, musical and writing will be no exception. Still, it will up to humans to steer the development of AI and the direction it takes.
Yes, quite possibly the dangers are there. AI can maybe ‘take over’ human creativity, it can come up with better writers than we are ourselves. It will possibly make no grammar or syntax mistakes, it could possibly synthesise and digest all ideas it comes across.
But then, there are two questions that arise here as far as writing is concerned — can’t the human writers actually benefit from all the advances AI brings in, turn it into some form of a parallel writing competition, that will in essence make them better writing, in essence better humans, if you will?
And then, there’s maybe that more important question — isn’t actually that human fallibility, that is the essential ingredient of brilliant writing, or any writing at all that element that will keep the humans over the top?
Or, if the AI picks on the fallibility too, it will not be any better or stronger than us, will it? Writing will possibly show.
In essence, Sofia Coppola was right — there’s quite a lot that is Lost in Translation. Of course, she wasn’t only thinking about the literal process of translating something, whether it was a simple thank you note or Jorge Luis Borges’ Circular Ruins. The essential meaning, the intended one, the sense of relations or the way relations are handled or things are perceived, I could go on, all those things can be lost. In Translation. Literal or otherwise.
But what can be the result if we reverse the question and ask — what can be gained in translation, particularly when one’s personal writing is concerned? Of course, it is not a new question, and a lot of writers have tried to answer it by being translators themselves. From above mentioned Jorge Luis Borges to the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Haruki Murakami and Anthony Burgess or even Nostradamus. The list is quite extensive.
It is not only gaining insight into another concept of thinking and set of human relations but also into another concept of writing, arranging words, even their meaning and use of words that completely correspond between languages or words that completely differ. For writers, translation shows the possibilities of transforming, even transfiguring, not only the meaning but also the vessel it is transported by — words.
In a way the process can be compared to the one the brilliant guitarist and composer John Fahey used when he practically invented a new set of ‘folk music’ expression terms with his Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, by not only inventing a character but by ‘translating’ existing musical terms into something completely new.
So it might be no wonder the founder of the British “Translators Association” prize for translation in his article for “Guardian” claims that translators are the vanguard of literary change.
Of course, not all writers are versed in one or more other languages than their mother tongue to be in a situation to translate works from other languages. But parallel translations of same works, particularly in English and in different English speaking countries do exist and can not only serve as a source of comparison but also as a source of inspiration, transformation and even transfiguration.
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