"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, March 27, 2009

My big, fat (possibly existential) question of the day

Attention! Attention, Writers! If you are a writer, I need your attention, NOW!

I'm taking a poll, mostly because I'm so damn curious, if I was a cat I'd be down to my last life right now.

First, go to the Southern California Writer's Conference blog (click here) and watch the clip of Joe Wambaugh, David Brin, Mark Clements, and other authors talk about the technical process of writing. I was particularly struck by their unwillingness at the time (1996) to embrace the word processor as a writing tool. Thomas Wolfe wrote Look Homeward, Angel standing in his kitchen, using the top of his refrigerator as a desk - the first draft was somewhere between 250,000 and 380,000 words (I guess Wolfe had a hard time counting). A few years ago, I was privileged to hear Ray Bradbury speak; although he is quite computer literate, he still prefers to use a typewriter for his manuscripts.

Now, my question to you, as a writer is this: How much of your time, your labor, your perserverance, would you give to your book(s) if you did not have the wonders of the modern computer? Be absolutely honest about this - knowing your last novel went through 30 revisions, would you still be willing to re-type the whole thing for submission to an agent?

What I'm looking for is basic insights into all of us, as writers. Perhaps you use a typewriter, or like to write things out by hand. Perhaps you like to use different tools for different types of writing. As for myself, I'm still mulling this over. My first, easiest response is that, being a former software engineer and feeling so comfy around computers, I don't know why I'd use anything else. But that's not all of it, since sometimes I like the feel of a pen in my hand. I'm still thinking about it... but why should I be the only one lost in thought? Please share.


Iris Black said...

Personally, I couldn't imagine life without the computer. However, I do like to use a pen and some index cards for random brainstorming, research, and character details.

A great topic!


thelittlefluffycat said...

When I didn't have a computer, I always had the best typewriter I could afford because I needed to have something that moved as fast as my brain did, and a pen or a pencil just didn't cut it. Never cut it.

Thinking about it now, I believe that if I didn't use a computer, I would still write, but I probably would never have gotten to submitting. I tried it, a bit, back in the days of carbons and non-selectrics and all that. I've proofread with marks. No. I would have written for myself, and possibly for a few friends -- but not for anybody else.

Now I'm having a funny running through my head I need to go write down. . . excuse me. . . ;)

Teresa M Burrell said...

If we didn't have computers I'm pretty certain I would still write...I just wouldn't be as good at it.

Interesting question.

Michele Scott said...

I think I'd go totally nutty without the computer because ironically I don't know how to type. i hunt and peck and my mistakes are many and often, so a typewriter could possibly do me in. I would still write though. I do a lot of my writing in notebooks with a pencil for first draft type work--just getting the ideas on paper. But no computer at all--no way!

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