I hung out with some friends last weekend. While chatting with one of them, I overheard a couple of others talk about the memo app on their phones and how much they enjoyehaving it. Mostly, it was about how great it is to jot down a quick idea n the fly, but that got me thinking about the relationship between writers and technology.
Writers at any point of time, I believe, have had some relationship with the technology of their period, but it’s a more intense relationship in this age of iPads, iPhones, and iPenises.
All a writer actually needs to work is some method of getting the words out of their head and into a physical form, a writing utensil and a tablet. Neanderthals used painted on caves. Egyptians used reeds on papyrus. Jack Kerouac had a typewriter and rolls of teletype paper. A computer can be thought of as a delayed typewriter in that you’re writing the work one day and printing it out on paper the next.
At least, that’s how I view my relationship with my laptop. But I’ve also noticed how that’s not always set in stone. In my spare time, I’ve been brainstorming for another book for when I finish Frantic, and it’s all being being done in notebooks. Sometimes, they’ll little descriptions that have popped in my head for the story, and other times there have been full vignettes. Compared to the way a lot of writing is done nowadays, it’s a very retro method to use.
High tech and low tech each have their own pros and cons.
High tech – working on a computer – allows me to write very quickly, especially when the creative floodgates are wide open. With Internet access, I can look up random bits on information on the fly. I can replicate and save my work so that there’s a system of redundancy so that in case something happens to a hard copy, I can quickly print up a replacement.
Low tech, however – working with a pen and paper – of slowing you down and letting you breath. You’re not distracted by email, or search engines, or videos of cats on Youtube. That’s great if you’ve got a short attention span and need to force you brain to concentrate on the work. True, you do need to take a little more care of those handwritten notes because you don’t have the safety net of a computer, but when you move on towards transcribing those notes into a digital format, you’ve had the luxury of letting the story marinate in your mind.
Ultimately, you, the writer, have to decide what your relationship to technology will be in regards to your work, but I think the most technologically successful writers are the ones who build up a toolbox, assess what they’ve got, and pick the right method for any given project.