Technology and the Writer

Some folks love it, some would rather leave it — but it’s here to stay.

As we all know, the invention of movable type in the mid-1400s revolutionized the world in ways Johannes Gutenberg never would have imagined.

Remember Jo in Little Women, taking refuge in the attic to write and emerging with ink-stained fingers? Louisa May Alcott would have fainted dead away at the the ease with which I compose on my laptop.

Mark Twain was the first writer to submit a typewritten manuscript. Today, many publishers will accept only electronic submissions.

When I was a kid, I used to write with a pen on notebook paper. Though I had an old manual typewriter similar to the one in the picture and spent many happy hours at it, my serious writing (and I was serious about it!) was done with a Bic. Preferably, a green one.

I’m not a tech geek. My landline phone (is there any other kind?) has a cord. I use a paper road map rather than try to figure out how a GPS works. I don’t even know how to work the satellite TV. Nevertheless, I consulted Bible Gateway during my Bible study this morning; this afternoon, among other things, I read my email; critiqued a chapter for an e-friend using track changes in Word; discussed via email the merits of entries — each of which was submitted electronically — for the Middle Grade/Young Adult category of the Out of the Slush Pile/Novel Journey’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest, with a fellow judge; looked online for photos to illustrate the post when the winner is announced on October 11; along the way, I got lost in a blog about traveling in Turkey; sorted out my Firefox bookmarks; and composed and posted this article.

All this seems pretty new-fangled to us Baby Boomers, and I sometimes feel a little proud of myself that I’m able to navigate in this bizarre electronic world. But how about the shower I took this morning, with hot and cold running water, or the curling iron I used to fix my hair afterward? My home’s electric lighting, the stove I cook on, the refrigerator where I keep my pasteurized milk cold, and the car I drove to church? All those technologies were new at one time, but now we take them for granted.

Writers write. They always have, whether they used a stylus on a clay tablet, a fountain pen on foolscap, or a computer with voice recognition software. We record facts, thoughts, feelings and opinions. Writers ask questions, suggest solutions, warn of impending dangers, prognosticate the future. We produce poetry, dabble in drivel, entertain, offend, and instruct.

It’s never been easier to be a writer, nor to publish your work. (I’m not talking about getting a contract with Random House, I’m talking about making our writings public, as I’m doing with this blog post.) The words we produce flood the planet.

Why do we do it? Do we actually think we’re accomplishing something?

If you’re a writer, why do you write? Do you find today’s technology a boon, or a distraction? Is this the best time in the history of man for a writer to share his work? or the hardest time ever to break into the business?

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12 thoughts on “Technology and the Writer

  1. Hey Yvonne,
    I don’t recall the last time I heard the word “foolscap.” Guess I have to find out what the modern version is. But you are right. Whether we babyboomers like it or not, technology will keep marching on, taking us right along with it. Lovely post.

  2. I was in Target the other day with my daughter, looking for a simple hula-hoop for her. We passed a “laptop” for kids 2+, which she went wild over! The thing comes with a usb cable so you can upload “emails” to your kid to open when they push a certain button. I think it even talks (“You have an email from Mom”–brings to mind the “You’ve Got Mail” days) I mean, seriously, laptops for 2 year olds? Yikes. Part of me does want her to learn young, and then the other part of me wants her to play only with simple, old-fashioned wooden toys and such. One way or another, I’d better keep up with all the technology so I can know what she’s up to when the teenage years arrive!

  3. I think kids need exposure to both worlds. Creative play with old-fashioned, non-interactive toys is great for the imagination, but they also need to be comfortable with technology. No worries with the latter — they love it. Their little sponge-brains absorb everything at that age, and I think the more varied experiences you can give them (wholesome and age-appropriate, of course), the better off they, and the rest of the world, will be. Kids never cease to amaze me at what they can understand and remember.

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog!

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