L'Amour lived in a time when the American frontier was almost tamed, but there were still vestiges of it at the edges of civilization. He sat on claims (occupied them for their owners to maintain the legal title to them). There was little else for him to do but read and he read a lot. His autobiography, The Education of a Wandering Man, includes his suggested reading list full of titles that he read. He sat with a book so long as there was light in the sky and nothing else to do, reading. Can you imagine the average American doing that today?
Dr. Turkles book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other, should also include “And Less From Ourselves”. How many people today are comfortable being alone with their own thoughts. I know that I am. However, I also know that I am an odd duck. I've always been happy being alone. There's a storyteller in my head. I don't write the novels and short stories. I simply transcribe them as they're told to me.
Potentially even more frightening to those of us who wish to sell our stories to people who have the capacity to read them, the CBS report included the results of a study from the University of Maryland in which we learn that people are frightened of losing their electronic crutches. Seventy percent of test subjects who volunteered to go without their iPads, iPhones, and BlackBerries failed to last even 24 hours. Imagine that. Could you?
The CBS report continues with comments by Nicholas Carr, author of What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains. He believes that our obsession with remaining connected to the Internet and each other grows out of a primitive instinct to gather as much information as possible. He contends that it is a natural survival skill, possible taken to an extreme.
You may be depressed by all this if you're a writer. But wait, it gets worse. The CBS report concludes with an interview with UCLA neuro-scientist, Gary Small. He provides proof that surfing the Internet is better for our brains than reading a book.
Granted, this episode of CBS Sunday Morning was not devoted to the contest between books and iPhones but, rather, between iPhones and person-to-person conversation. However, I believe the information transfers well. Ultimately, it gives credence to my publisher's advice that I focus more on writing short stories or serialized fiction. The truth is that I can see myself in that role. I have been writing Flash Fiction this year as part of The Writers Collection, a group of authors contributing weekly in response to prompts consisting of words and short phrases. I've enjoyed the experience and will soon release a collection of my own.
However, I probably will write a novel or two more. Call me a masochist.