I think it would be foolish of me to say that technology has not affected the way I write, or my creative process, or the way I think. I exist in a limbo between the writing practices of my youth and the modern world of social media and Microsoft Word. Let me tell a story: When I entered MHC in ’87 I took with me a brand new, state-of-the-art typewriter, which (GASP!) saved what you were typing. There was a small strip where one could read about 20 characters of text displayed as you typed, or as you edited. So I would write a draft by hand, type it up and then roll the paper in one page at a time so it could “print” my paper. This is when my anxiety of “Where did my words go?” began. No matter what the future brings for writers, I think part of me will always be concerned about where, out there, my words have gone, in that moment between “save” and “print”. I will always miss the days when I could see all the progression of my work right in front of me, pen, paper and typed copy, cluttering my desk and yet a visual representation of all that I thought.
CUT and PASTE! Great technology for a writer. Remember erasers? Remember white out? Remember piles of crumpled up rejects on your floor?
TRACK CHANGES! Great technology for editing someone’s work. Especially great for editing by committee (or writers’ group).
I am so glad to have these tools of technology at my fingertips.
Writing on a computer has, of course, made life very easy. It allows my writing to keep up with my flow of consciousness to say nothing of the magical delete button and the ability to easily edit.
Technological improvements for the future? Sure! Since I am basically a story teller, the best advance for me would be one that I think already exists: having the spoken word immediately transferred to my computer page. That way I could put my feet up on the couch or the bed, close my eyes and let my imagination fly. It’s not easy writing on the computer with one’s eyes closed!
Migraineur: My Writing and Technology
The first migraine with aura that I experienced looked like superimposed images of text on a screen. This is what I saw. What I perceived was a struggle to make sense of the vision and the eerie sense that the text contained messages from the past and from the future. I was 65 years old. I landed in the emergency room.
I have wondered about the influence of our technological culture upon that first migraine experience. Did my hours of immersion looking at a computer screen account for the hallucinatory vision of text? Had the actual ideas of my brain, my stories, become text? Was my brain just individual jumbled letters (neurons?) of the alphabet?
When I write I see scenes unfolding cinematically. I translate that visual experience into typed words. How that happens I don’t really understand. When I read (actual paper books!) I see what the writer writes and suggests. I visually imagine the rest.
A loved one has lost clear vision in one eye. I learn that brain regions interpreting visual stimuli inhabit much of the real estate of our brains. Where we are in space, how to get somewhere. Without GPS, my brain knows where the lakes of Puget Sound are in relation to each other; my brain knows the interior layout of most every house I have ever been inside of. I move my characters through these homes.
Science and history live inside my computer. I need science for research. I need my computer for pop culture references that hold no meaning for me but whose relevance is part of the world in which my characters move.
The world of Netflix stories lives inside my computer. I always use captions even for English language. More text! The movie unfolds visually, words spoken in French, Korean, Hindi, while text in English scrolls across the bottom of my screen. I turn up the volume, still listening for intonation and mood, for the clues beyond text.
Since I am an inveterate Luddite in many ways, the connection between technology and me is frequently tenuous. Much of the time, writing means a pad of paper and a pen.
Only once in a rare while do I actually start out sitting in front of my iMac, blank page of Nisus Writer on the screen, and my fingers on the keyboard like a concert pianist before I commence creation of my next opus.
Once I have strung my words together, though, I am very appreciative of technology. I don’t count copying from paper to computer as an extra step; instead it becomes part of the revise/proofread phase.
I like digital storage – although I almost always have a paper copy as well. I am old enough that I traveled from paper to manual typewriters to electric typewriters and finally to computers. I like the ease and freedom imparted by a computer as I re-write, using cut, copy, and paste; adding bold and italics; emailing it to a friend; even (gasp!) sometimes using the spellchecker (spelling well is one of my many vanities).
In other words, while I like and appreciate digital technology in writing, technology is not a key component to creation for me but I find it vital in sharing my work with others.