Star Date: October 30, 2011

A freak snowstorm battered southern New England yesterday, resulting in a wet, white, foreign,semi-crystallized substance that accumulated on colorful leaf-laden trees. As heavy branches snapped under the weight and crashed to the ground taking power lines with them, all forms of communication with the inhabitants were cut off.

(Except for those of us who have Internet on our cell phones and happen to have a car charger or a power inverter. Well, I don’t have either of the apparatuses to transform my gas and battery-operated Jeep into a source of electrical stimulation, so when the cell phone juice ran dry, I was left alone and lonely.)

Fast forward to 10:00 PM two nights before Halloween, and I was in the dark, cold and alone, and lighting candles all over my house. What a wonderful time to write a ghost story, I thought.

And then I realized almost everything I wanted to write required research, and I had no means of accessing Google or heading out to my local library or Barnes & Noble.

It got me thinking what our forefathers had done. There were newspapers of course, and journals I supposed, that authors could have subscribe to, but how else had they gotten their information? How had they written all those wonderful classics such as The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins without the need for facts at the tips of their fingers and at lightning speed? Was traveling overseas so easy then or jobs for foreign correspondents were just plentiful?

I remember a time before computers and the Internet, and sadly it was probably one of the most creative and productive times in my writing career. I didn’t
look up anything; inspiration came from personal and physical experiences. Like a remote twisted country road, an eerie tree-lined path, the Tlaquepaque Mall in Sedona, AZ, and a torrid, sordid love affair. I used my mind and the power of my imagination to transform this stimuli into the characters and plots and settings of my stories. I used the “What If” method without even knowing it.

Why then should it be so hard now? Have I, and the rest of us, gotten so used to relying on other people for our knowledge of, well, anything that we can’t even pound out a semi-original ghost story?

I agree that the Internet is a fascinating invention that keeps us connected to a world we might never have known existed, but at what expense? With so much virtual information out there, I feel like we are becoming less and less creative. Look at this year’s major motion picture releases. How many of them were remakes of older movies? How many were based on books or comics or graphic novels?

Though Emily Dickinson might not have left her Amherst home for most of her adult life, she also did not resort to accessing the World Wide Web for inspiration and research.

It only took a few days without electricity and Internet service to realize the true power of creativity lies within our own imagination. But unlike modern
technology, if I can harness it, I will never have to worry about service interruptions again.