As I hold my new glass pen in my hand, I marvel at the way the ink flows across the page. I dip. I try out many colors from little bottles sealed with wax. I even get a few ideas for a poem from the results of experimenting with the new medium.
Then I make notes on my smart phone, email them to myself, and later that evening turn those notes into prose on my laptop. I bathe in the illumination of my words on a glowing screen, pleased with the speed of my progress as my fingers tap across the keyboard.
Such are the tools of the modern writer – electronic conveniences combined with age old classics.
Today’s technological advances have increased our speed and productivity by making the process of getting words down easier than ever before. Laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and digital recording devices give authors convenient means of getting down their thoughts of the moment. If their hands are busy, they can even record their words so they appear as text. There is no need to wait for pad and pencil.
Though there is something to be said for the extra time needed to compose thoughts while writing by hand. It is no coincidence that writers often frequent office supply stores like kids frequent candy stores. Fountain pens require care and maintenance, but their owners are rewarded with flowing script that belongs to them alone. The person who uses a quill for something other than decorative value makes a statement about the aesthetic value of what he puts on the page. He may take extra time to compose his letters, perhaps composing his thoughts and words in the process.
I have found merit in both approaches. When unable to type, I have dictated my words into my phone for composition on my computer later. Though when able to write by hand, I have used the slower – but perhaps more aesthetically pleasing – tools of the trade for poems and sketches. The extra time spent writing my words allows me to consider my thoughts before placing them in a way to appeal to me visually as well as audibly. The handwriting itself becomes part of the art.
However, electronics help get ideas down quickly – before they can be forgotten. Later, I spend time perfecting each word, the revelations in a story, and the way the characters interact with each other. Editing can be done quickly and easily, cutting whole scenes and pasting them into another document – rather like trimming a hedge; the cuttings may be of future use. Words are not lost but placed elsewhere, until they may be called upon again. And when those words have been refined? Making submissions to markets via electronic means is easier and cheaper than ever before.
Electronics have not replaced pen and paper and likely never will. There is something to be said for the convenience of a number two pencil and a cheap pad of paper. The cost is minimal; the experience completely different from typing on a keyboard or talking into a microphone. However, in a world of smart phones and laptops, it is nice to have options. The devoted bibliophile will read books in whatever format is available, and the avid writer will compose their words in whatever medium they can. Words are addictive, and there is no stopping their proliferation by any means necessary.
The modern world has much to offer the aspiring writer, but do not forget the pleasures of the past.
~ Catherine Russell