“Skywriting by Word of Mouth” was a posthumously published book of prose penned by John Lennon that I was gifted a quarter-century ago. It was writing born of an anarchic love of language that sufficed as depth when I was 14 and sometimes still haunts me. Well, at least its title haunts me. When general awareness of so-called “cloud” computing burst into media consciousness in recent years, I couldn’t help but think of Lennon’s book title and it’s reference to skywriting.
Though the term is usually reserved for daredevils with an airplane, it’s become my personal metaphor for writing directly into the “cloud.” Whether that was with Google Docs, or ever increasingly, Evernote, the idea of putting words into some ephemeral-sounding digital mist appeals to me. Moreover, I can access it anywhere and on any device. Now, moments otherwise lost waiting for the train or between bouts with baristas for refills could be productive. I could “skywrite” my columns, my blogs, bits of books, scenes in screenplays when I would otherwise be twiddling my thumbs, or more likely, using my thumbs to scroll through the Facebook or in engaging some other digital distraction. Now, my thumbs are producers, world class hacks, hunting and pecking these very words you’re reading.
What’s interesting to me is that writing to the cloud makes the creative act both incidental and opportunistic — with the right device in hand (an iPhone in this case), writing is like spackle filling the fissures in one’s schedule. Many a colleague might bristle that I’ve not ennobled the act of writing with it’s own appointment in my Google Calendar. Mind you, I do occasionally make a date with the muse but as a man with a toddler and a full-time career writing hokum on the clock, I have to let any “extracurricular” writing spring like weeds from the cracks in the concrete.
Writing into the cloud allows me to do this into a single document, always waiting for me in the sky when inspiration strikes. Of course, the “cloud” is just a server farm in an air-conditioned warehouse but by the same token, one’s muse is more neurochemistry than a visitation from the divine but we can romance it all the same.
Of course, I haven’t yet bothered to extend the cloud metaphor to its logical conclusions, namely the various forms of digital precipitation that might occur if Google flipped the wrong switch. Would words rain from the heavens? Not likely, but the waterworks would be real for me and thousands of other bawling scribes who entrusted their work to a couple of Stanford dropouts in Mountain View.
This is where a healthy denial mechanism is useful. Having lost an opus or two to various snafus (I once watched the lone copy of a terrible play I’d written wash out to sea), one might think I’d reconsider my precious “skywriting” notion and commit everything to good old pen and ink. Try emailing a page from a notebook sometime. I try to keep about a hundred miles between me an my editors for safety’s sake, so emailing is the only option for deadline writers like myself. And if by some miracle particle physics I was able to email my handwritten scrawl it would be unintelligible anyway. My carefully-keyed missives are borderline as is, so I don’t want to push it. For now, I’ll keep putting my words in the sky and hope they don’t get lost amongst the Lucy’s and the diamonds.