Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nostalgic Writing Implements

I was thinking today that my writing technology has changed notably over time. At one point pencils with erasers were new technology, and resisted by teachers who feared that students would be willing to make more mistakes. Now that seems ridiculous, calling a pencil "technology," but that's because we've altered the connotation of that word.

When I first began writing I used pen on paper--write-your-own-books and journals were all the rage, and I got them for birthdays and Christmases and never actually wanted to tarnish them with what I considered the mundanities of my life. I did, though, and I read them now with much amusement and a great deal of embarrassment. Even if one doesn't write huge secrets in journals, they're still very revealing years later.

When I was a teen and in my early twenties I was very dependent upon typewriters--first a tiny manual that we had at home (and which left distinctive ink blotches on certain letters) and eventually an electric that I used in high school. My parents eventually upgraded to their own electric, which they bought second-hand at an office sale, and I thought we'd achieved the height of luxury. It was so smooth, typing on that electric, and twice as fast.

When computers came on the scene, I was quite resistant. What could compete with my sweet little typewriters, for which I had a great deal of affection? But then someone showed me how an error was corrected on a computer: one backspace, and it was wiped away, as though it had never existed. No papers, no liquid paper, no scrolling up and down for every little mistake.

I betrayed my typewriters in that instant for a new and more lovely technology, and I never went back. I rarely have to use pen and ink anymore. I compose at the computer (although when I teach I still rely heavily on the downright primitive chalk and blackboard). I have a Dell laptop and PC, and if anyone took them away I would go through severe withdrawal. It would be like launching me into an alternate universe.

So I wonder what technology will threaten the one I consider "modern" today?

In many ways I'm lagging behind: I finally have a cell phone, but our whole family shares one phone; we don't text message, and the phone actually rings--no ring tones. We don't use it to bring up the internet, look at maps, or send e-mails. But none of that really affects the way that I write.

Is there something out there that will?


Anonymous said...

Since I am not a touch typist you can imagine the wonders computers did for my writing. It became possible for me to rewrite just to try out new approaches and still finish something within my lifetime. I never did use an electric. I skipped right from a manual to word processing. I used to be covered with whiteout by the end of a day spent writing. I tended to be too impatient to let it dry and I'd type over a wet blot and splatter it all over. Oddly, my writing done on the old manual doesn't sound much different at all. I don't think anyone could distinguish the typed from those done on the computer, yet the process feels a lot different. Well, ironically, today I write more concisely than when I typed. Go figure.

Julia Buckley said...

Well, that's an interesting notion--to suggest that the actual rhythm or style of your writing might change with the implement used. I don't think mine differed drastically from longhand to computer--but the computer allows one to see how words would look on a printed page, and I do think that helps with both VISION and REVISION.

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