Recently I’ve been reflecting on my relationship to technology (or lack thereof). While I’m a notch or two short of a pure Luddite (I do drive, I can’t avoid a computer screen and maintain employment), I find myself distrustful of technology at best, and as a writer dismissive of it completely.
In using the word “technology,” by the way, I’m referring to our common understanding of it—gadgetry. I’m not a gadget guy. No GPS (I use maps). No iPad; no iPhone; no iAnything. I refer to my cell phone as my “terrorist cell”—you know, one of those pay by the minute jobs you get at 7-11. It’s always off and I only buy minutes about twice a year. Also—and most pertinent here—I almost always write fiction by hand. My row of heavily used composition books stretches across an entire book shelf.
As an instructor of composition (among other societal ills) I often have my students broadly define technology early on in the semester. And yes, I have them do so in a composition book. They usually come up with something like this: “anything that helps us make life easier.” This insight usually casts a pensive shadow upon the otherwise chirpy class. Yes, refrigerators do help make life easier. Yes, it’s nice to have a washer and dryer—life would be much more difficult without them. Yes, Microsoft Word certainly is a nice invention; I wouldn’t want to use one of those clickety-clack typewriters of yore. They are grateful.
However, in practice Millennials can be twitchy and impatient, ready to draw out their ubiquitous smart phones during any thirty second lull. The most popular Millennial maneuver is in-pocket texting, a practice which makes me (and many others in the educational sphere) see some dark shade of pedagogical red. Physically a textaholic might occupy a seat in my classroom, but mentally they are over the social networking rainbow.
Here’s my writerly beef with gadgetry distilled to its essence: it doesn’t make my writing life easier. Sure, it does help if I’m walking around a city and need to find a restaurant, if I need to call a friend, if I want to bid on a pair of Nike LeBron 9 iD on eBay whilst walking down 19th and M Street. However, the reason I write by hand has to do with the fact that writing well takes laser-like focus and attention. Gadgetry offers just one more layer of annoying distraction. My landline and HP desktop offer more than enough, thank you kindly.
One of my writing buddies asked me recently: but doesn’t this make your writing inefficient? Perhaps, but when I type up my handwritten work I find myself also tweaking what I wrote. My writing process simply adds one more layer of revision—which never hurts. At any rate, who said writing should be efficient? When I was writing my forthcoming novel, I never thought Today I must pound out 3,000 words. I wrote what I could on a given day—by hand, mostly sitting outside on my patio. Sunlight is good.
NaNoWriMo has positive benefits, but its one negative side effect is devastating: writing should not be measured by quantity alone. A novel is not a sack of rice measured by the pound. In fact, I would say that the NaNoWriMo-ification of writing has to do with the fact that currently there is a bevy of writers in our society, but who is taking the time to read what is actually produced? This is a problem. So, I like to sloooooow down. To parallel the slow food movement, there needs to be a slow writing movement. Turn off the iPhones and focus on the page. I suspect that some writers gadget-up to avoid the shackles of writerly loneliness. Nothing wrong with this—writing is lonely. However, I prefer my writerly loneliness unshaken and unstirred.
Sorry, I can easily froth myself up into a state of curmudgeonly fumigation. I am a crank at heart. Here’s what it comes down to for me: while I benefitted greatly from my five plus years as fiction editor of The Pedestal Magazine, my several years as editor of The Potomac, and my two year stint as series editor of Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2008, 2009, I now feel once again released back into the world of creation (and the sharing of that creation). Thus this entry.
If I had my druthers, I’d pretty much want to sit in a quiet room and write. And then write some more. I have more novel, story, poem, and essay ideas than I know what to do with. I’ll bring some of them to light here. Blogging—or whatever one might call this—is a good way to make sense of it all (ultimately, I am grateful for the internet as a means to reach a few extra sets of eyes). More importantly, you won’t have to read my chicken scratch. It’s illegible.
Photo Source: Pencil Talk