Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Who Needs Pencils?

Over at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure they are waxing lyrical about pencils and the joy of writing in the old fashioned way. Well I disagree. When I was fourteen I cut my little finger so badly trying to sharpen a pencil with a pen knife that I had to have four stitches and there is still a scar to this day.

For me, a computer is the only way to write. I turn mine on at six thirty in the morning and turn it off just before I get into bed. It’s better than having a whole office full of people working for me. When I’m away from it for more than a day or two, I feel deprived, like a child in the playground whose best friend is at home sick.

Whenever I think about the likes of Charles Dickens or Balzac, writing all those weighty tomes with what was no more than a glorified feather, I am filled with admiration - not to mention relief that I was born into a more technologically advanced era.

I remember writing my first novel on a portable typewriter. What a pain that was! There were passages pasted over earlier versions, notes in the margin, mistakes in the pagination. I must have used several pints of correction fluid. When I was finished it looked like a dog’s breakfast. I had to get the whole thing retyped by a professional before I dared submit it to a publisher. If I’d had to do it with a pen or pencil, there might never have been a second book.

With a computer it’s all so much more pleasant. I can move text about at will, find and replace words and phrases, spell-check my work, keep a running word count and regularly update the table of contents. And if I want to do some research, the internet is the most extraordinary fount of information on every subject you could think of. Not always trustworthy of course, but nearly always inspiring. Try getting all that from a pencil.

The computer is the most elegant, sophisticated, and versatile writing tool that civilisation has ever produced, and also the most democratic. So let’s embrace what the modern world has to offer, not spend our time looking over our shoulders, pining for the good old days of graphite and ink, when books had leather jackets and authors had leather patches on their elbows and when writers were men of letters – even the women.


Paul Lamb said...

I agree wholeheartedly. The bottom line is that the computer can't replace the creative component, but for just about every other part of writing, it's a vast improvement over the old technology.

I don't doubt that those who wax lovingly about the old ways are sincere, at least when they say it, but I do doubt that many of them eschew a computer altogether.

Foxi Rosie said...

Rock on brothers...