I spoke today to a class of 20 freshman journalism students at New Mexico State University about writing for a living. Their world is very different from mine, and will be throughout their careers, in one significant respect — unquestioned, socially approved, if not demanded, access to, if not addiction to, the Internet and its enormous pool of images, ideas, data and opinions.
It’s also the graywater of received wisdom, inflated ego, unfounded or salacious rumor. Can anything fresh, clean, valuable emerge as your life’s work if this remains your primary or exclusive source of intellectual or emotional fuel?
As I said then — Picasso and Gauguin didn’t zip on over to cubism.com or exploretahiti.org to envision and paint the images many still consider extraordinary in their vision, beauty and creativity. They created them.
I told this group of fresh-faced kids, one even a high-schooler visiting for the day, to do the unthinkable. Turn off the damn computer. For a day. For entire days.
I just spent five days in a desert home on 26,000 acres, nurtured and recharged by a silence punctuated only by the yowls of a mountain lion, the squeaks of skittering quail, the wind in the trees. We had no Internet or television and listened, briefly, to NPR on the radio before turning it off in favor of…silence.
Without withdrawal, reflection, isolation, creativity is, I believe impossible.