Thursday, 25 June 2009

Tradition vs Technology

I just read a very interesting post on Zoƫ Westhof's Essential Prose blog about the benefits of uni-tasking, but it's gotten me thinking in a slightly different direction.

I'm always fascinated by what processes other writers follow to actually get the words out of their head and onto paper/screen. Some writers write longhand on those yellow legal pads that you see in American films but never in the UK, others keep fancy journals from places like Paperchase specifically for the creative act, and others just boot up their laptop and dive into Word. I must admit, I'm usually the latter - typing makes writing feel easier. Don't like that passage where it is? Cut and paste it somewhere else. Not sure how long your piece is? Check the word count. Want to change your formatting? Easy, just a couple of clicks.

Though it's not that easy. Computers are wonderful inventions (when they work) but because of the way they perform multiple functions, it's all too easy to become distracted. You can "quickly check your emails", pop onto Facebook or waste time Twittering about seemingly insignificant stuff. All that time you waste doing unnecessary things is time you could have spent writing - and you just know that you'll tell people you simply don't have time to write these days. You do, you're just spending it on frivolity.

So every now and then, I will sit down with a pen and paper and write longhand. I've got a rather funky A5 spiralbound notebook with a manga design on the cover that I keep for just such an occasion, and the pages are covered with electric blue scrawl (and the occasional doodle). I find the quality of what I write is usually dubious at best, downright awful at worst, but at least I’ve produced something concrete, something I can physically hold in my hands, and which I can edit on the computer at a later date. Pen and paper provides a limitation that forces you to do what it is that you sat down to do in the first place.

Of course, the other, more mundane, advantage to pen and paper is that its not subject to random crashes, power failures, incompatible software or Windows tantrums…