I'm looking for the right literary processes, good recipes, so to speak, that yield new and interesting forms. I am very conscious of my process when I work. While writing, editing or performing, I ask: am I going about this in an interesting way, or am I following a bland, repetitive recipe? Are the ingredients right?
Some might argue that the centuries-old recipe for the single-speaker, book-bound, rising-climactic narrative is just about cooked out. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do wonder: what else is there?
My first major writing projects have been, in essence, an attempt to abandon the limitations of the page. My
first novella was written in hypertext. Although it was possible to read it in a book-like fashion from one paragraph to the next and so on, it was also possible to use hyperlinks to follow an associative path through the many parts of the text, or to combine these two ways of reading.
I would suggest the Futurists' recipe for literature as an influential example. Their process is explained in a pair of manifestos, the “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature” and “Destruction of Syntax—Imagination without strings—Words-in-Freedom.” One hundred years after those manifestos were written, our generation enjoys an unprecedented ability to manipulate and disseminate language, quickly and globally, and in so many more forms than by writing alone. Perhaps now is a good time for futurist literature?
When I started creating spoken word recordings, I discovered that editing sound is similar to editing printed
words. You can add, subtract, rearrange the sounds in very much the same way that you can with words in a document.
With sound, there are other ways to edit. You can revise the speed, pitch, volume, echo and decay of the words. Words and sounds can be recombined to create new phrases, with new meanings and associations. Sounds that are neither words nor musical notations are nearly impossible to write down, but of course they can be recorded with less difficulty. This realization prompted me to title my first spoken word album “Strange Punctuation.”
Abandoning the page doesn't always have to be about futuristic technology. I keep some ancient recipes in my cookbook as well. For example, the ancient bards had something in common with the DJ of our time, or with the on-demand television rerun. The bards remixed. They took requests. The audience could help decide what would be performed. With each telling, the stories evolved, and I would say the stories became
richer and even more human as a result. As a writer, choices about how to tell a story are very important. As a reader, the important choices are about what to read and how to read it.
Little children, during their bedtime stories, they seem so eager to influence both kinds of choices. They interact with their bedtime stories, interrupting with their questions and their demands. Surely this form of literature is as old as bedtime itself; it must be a good recipe.
A poet I admire complains that he must read his work aloud because it tends to “lose something in the translation” to print. So much of poetry depends upon the way it sounds and yet, more often than not, it is written on paper and read silently.
I ask, What is the difference between sheet music its performance?
What's the difference between the recipe and the meal?
Which one is the real one?
With so many new tools in the kitchen, I think it's a great time for writers to get cooking.