Anyone who engages in a creative practice will tell you of the trials and tribulations of times when ideas and inspiration so desperately needed eludes you. The dreaded 'writer's block' is an affliction that defeats me with frightening regularity, the mind stumbling blindly in circles, unable to sift and identify the required information for a given idea; I have been trying to write this particular article for a far longer period of time than I had anticipated, or indeed believed was possible, and in doing so, I have given thought to my writing process. As I sit here, typing these words, I am aware of the music playing through my speakers and headphones. I am aware of my phone, sitting ominously alongside my laptop, the screen occasionally flashing from dull black to a harsh white at the command of incoming messages and notifications. The bright lights from my laptop screen stimulate my brain and hurt my eyes. Yet most pertinently, I am aware of the tabs, programs and windows from my Internet browser, lurking behind my word processor, ready at all times to inundate my brain with social networks, blogs, news channels and a whole range of multimedia services.
In the world of writing this isn't as much of a problem if you are writing purely from the imagination; a quiet, empty room with pen and paper will suffice. Other more critical forms of writing, such as this, seem to require and almost demand a constant consideration of a wider scope of information that exists beyond one's own limited knowledge. Journalistic writing has been enhanced and streamlined by the age of the Internet; poring through newspapers, magazines, essays and other physical manuscripts has been replaced by the efficient refining process of Internet search engines. Thus the demands set by readers upon journalists and social commentators, large or small, are increased exponentially by the knowledge that such vast amounts of information are readily available. This can prove to be a logistical and creative nightmare for a writer, for as we all know, the Internet has the propensity to bewilder you when you become too deeply immersed; the internet browser 'tab' system has made this all the more problematic.
This in turn has far-reaching consequences for the public, particularly amongst the younger generations, raised on a diet of technology and a saturation of information. The mind can only take on so much at once, and in turn we seek for ways to make it easier to understand and process. The success of social media sites like Reddit, Twitter and Facebook is firmly rooted in this social, cultural and intellectual amalgamation of 'viral' information, developed and presented in easily digestible packets for the reader to consume. By extension, the rise of the Upworthys and Buzzfeeds of this contemporary age reflects a further shift in focus towards short, hot hits of viral 'clickbait'. The problem is therefore twofold: In being overwhelmed by information, we seek simpler, more enticing presentations of it. This goes beyond the obvious concerns here for increasingly short attention spans and reductive presentations of news and information, for in reducing information to a marketable commodity, sites like Upworthy are quickly becoming the socio-cultural dictators, telling the consumer what information they should and shouldn't be consuming. Whilst the Internet remains a fascinating, endless portal to the world's information, its staggering size has proved its very limitation.
The power of these websites is having a profound effect within the poetry and spoken word scene too. I have previously touched upon the disparity between the most successful spoken word artists in the scene and virtually everyone else, and in speaking to and working with these artists you get a real sense of just how much influence these websites have upon the rise and fall of an artist's trajectory. The success of pieces such as Mark Grist's 'Girls Who Read' and Hollie McNish's 'Mathematics' have in part stemmed from these sites' promotions, and in speaking to both artists through my work on Word on the Curb, I have seen the way in which these platforms have the ability to open an artist's work to an unprecedented audience. The problem lies in the over-promotion of poetry that appears to be statistically popular, resulting in audiences connecting with fewer artists.
The Internet is a tool that has the capacity to help art and creativity flourish and develop, yet we must be careful to utilise it properly, in order to avoid limiting it's scope for intuition and originality. Moreover, I believe that spoken word has an exciting role to play in the dissemination of information and formation of public discourse. In a world saturated with information, the innate voice of the self is clearly defined, shaped and clarified within the confines of the poem. For those few minutes spent watching and listening to a poem, you are thrust into a space where nothing can distract or deviate from the message. If we are indeed becoming consumers who demand more accessible and entertaining interpretations of information or opinions, spoken word could turn out to be an important and worthwhile medium.