I had this idea the other night. The idea was: a wastebasket, but a virtual one. I was picturing a movie scene where a writer sits at a typewriter, and then they yank out the page, crumple it up, toss it to the floor, or possibly into a receptacle. And I thought, “We need an app like that.” Like a trash can app. And then I thought, “Wait, there’s already a trash function built into most operating systems.”
Then I wondered, “What appealed to me about the virtual wastebasket idea?” How did I think it would function in a similar way to a physical wastebasket?
I liked the aesthetic of the crumpled paper. I liked the pile as a visual for how much the writer had tried and failed.
When you discard something on a device, it’s easy to lose track of the cumulative effect. I use Google Keep to jot down writing ideas, but as I scroll through them, I occasionally delete some notes and archive others. The virtual space offers a seamless experience, but perhaps it creates an illusion of orderly thinking.
No, I don’t buy this conclusion. And the more I think about it, the wastebasket represented actual waste — paper sacrificed for attempts at creativity. Virtually, the waste is less obvious. Words look just like other words. It’s not an illusion of orderly thinking; it’s an illusion of valuable thought.
If I truly liked the aesthetic of the crumpled paper, then perhaps I’m merely missing the tactile sensation that comes with trial and error. In a virtual space, among cleaner lines and searchable text, I can still see chaos and failure.
What is the modern equivalent of a crumpled typewriter page? Is it an email inbox filled with junk? Is it an overbooked calendar with meetings touching meetings? Or is it simply the unsorted files on a hard drive, withering from neglect?