You’d think that after all this time, the things you can do on the internet would cease to fascinate or greatly amuse me. Highly untrue.
I remember when a friend first introduced the collaboration feature of Google Docs to me. While the technology behind this is probably light-years less complicated than most of what’s out there, the idea that two or more people can write together, edit each other and share ideas on the same word document or spreadsheet at the same time brings a feeling of side-by-side mentorship that is lost in the world of solitary existence in front of computers.
Of course, it can also be used for fun and silliness—I can’t tell you how many ridiculous, probably unreadable stories I’ve “co-authored” with friends using this tool. A bit like Exquisite Corpse, but over the world wide web instead of with pen and paper.
Writing silly stories with your friends is all well and good, of course, but I’ve recently discovered a more…literary…collaboration you can try out. Google has done a demo where you can practice writing stories with the likes of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe. They’ll edit your words to their tastes and chide you if you slack off. I think my favorite is Charles Dickins’ accusation after too long a pause, “Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.”
While this is really just a fun game you can play with yourself, I wonder if it also couldn’t be an exercise in trying out various writing styles and formats. Not that writing with Shakespeare’s prose or Nietzsche’s vindications is really anyone’s aim (or maybe it is!), but seeing how a simple word change or structure alteration in your own words can give an entirely different effect to the narrative is certainly eye-opening.
I suggest trying it out, whether for fun or for discipline (okay, it’s going to be fun regardless) and posting your favorite “edits” in the comments!