Invention, Ambition, Fearlessness: Digital Writing Month 2014

We are all animals of speech and expression, we are creative beasts with crayons, we are all authors, and we are all founding mothers and fathers of a territory yet unclaimed. So write because you want to, write because you need to, and may the echo of your voice stir others to say more and say again. ~ Sean Michael Morris, Creative Beasts with Crayons

Adeline Koh has said that “You are already a digital humanist, whether or not you know it.” All of us, to one extent or another, create with the digital. We write e-mails; we post to Facebook; we write concise, short poetry on Twitter; we put our selfies on Flickr; we write e-mails and text messages; we tell the world who we are, where we are, and what we think almost automatically, and usually instantaneously, every day. We put concepts into action. We are the creators of artifacts. “We are no longer responders to History, no longer makers of Literature. We are the writers of partially-realized ideas and their rewriters.”

Hybrid Pedagogy is about to begin a new iteration of our Digital Writing Month event, our month-long free, open, hybrid digital making extravaganza that first made its debut in 2012. When Jesse Stommel and I first started the event, we did so with a certain abandon, hoping that our enthusiasm would be contagious and all manner of invention would follow. We set up reckless challenges, invited in the online chorus, created viral zombies, and dared to encourage every single person we could find to become madcap digital-writing humanists. We were happily overjoyed by the response.

The event is designed to give writers from all over the world the opportunity to experiment and play with, and explore digital writing. We begin with the premise that digital writing is essentially different from traditional writing — especially in that it is not always text. “Digital writing is emergent writing. It mutinies at the imposition of form, the edicts of the grammars of old. It rails to change the rules. It raises the flag of anarchy.” As such, invention is the singularly most important ingredient for a rambunctious DigiWriMo project… invention, ambition, and fearlessness. The point is creation; the method to the madness is up to you.

In addition to writing, we’ll be exploring sound and video “writing,” and thinking about how writing in the digital recontextualizes the stories we tell, the art we make, and the material we consume as part of the creative process. Myself, Jesse, and Chris Friend will be standing at the ready throughout the 30-day challenge to assist with text, video, and sound projects (respectively); but more than that, the DigiWriMo community will swarm to motivate, help, inspire, and indulge. As in the past, participants are encouraged to work together or separately, competitively or cooperatively, or off in their own worlds.

A key component of the event will be the short, encouraging, investigative, or even puzzling articles from “guest speakers” that will post to the site twice each week. Our guest speakers from 2012 included Bonnie Stewart, Lee Skallerup Bessette, Tanya Sasser, and more. This year, we’re looking forward to adding some new voices to the fray, as well as bringing back our old favorites. These posts aim to provoke writers, stoke their creative fires, and generally help them get through this challenge.

Jesse has said,

The digital brings different playgrounds and new kinds of interaction, and we must incessantly ask questions of it, disturbing the edge upon which we find ourselves so precariously perched. And what the digital asks of us is that every assumption we have be turned on its head.

Digital Writing Month is all about turning our assumptions on their heads. If you’ve never thought yourself capable of creating a podcast, or a blog, or project involving maps and images and music and haiku, now’s your chance to prove yourself wrong. The digital is both a new and old frontier. It is made from our stuff, our ideas, our words and pictures, our selves.

Jumping into DigiWriMo means diving deeper into a pool we’ve all already been wading in. Make preparations. Warn your relatives, friends, and dearest loved ones. Gird your digital loins. Sign up and mark your calendar for November 1 at midnight GMT, when your writing will be loosed upon the world.

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