I don’t have an I-pod, I-phone, or a Kindle. I’m not on Facebook, and I don’t Twitter, text, or TiVo. The few pieces of technology I do use are, obviously, the computer, and e-mail is my best friend. Eventually I figured out how to write on our group blog. I use my cell phone (but seldom have it turned on) and know how to program a VCR. Does all of this make me a technology dinosaur? Probably.
Ten short years ago, I’d barely gotten online (with dial-up) and most of the above terms and products were unheard of. As each came into general use I did my best to learn the ones that were most important to me. Often, the learning curve was more than I wanted to tackle, and I moved on without them. Others I’ve embraced completely.
The biggest change in the writing world, of course, is the computer. I well recall the days when manuscripts were (sometimes laboriously) typed on a typewriter, even if it was electric. Unless one was a master speed typist, the words per minute were usually less than what we discovered we could achieve at a computer keyboard. Then there were the trips to the copy shop if we needed multiple copies, or worse, the dreaded carbon paper (ugh!)—not to mention the various forms of Wite-Out for mistakes. And of course, cut-and-paste was exactly that—cutting various paragraphs and sentences, pasting or taping them where we wanted them to be, and then re-typing the whole thing. How delighted we all were to be able to do all these things, and more, in a fraction of the time with a computer!
And what would a writer do without e-mail? Not only is it a quick way to query editors (and hopefully get a quick reply,) but increasingly, manuscripts can be submitted electronically, which is faster and easier than old-fashioned “snail mail,” (although I do retain a certain nostalgia for the mailman’s arrival, with, perhaps, an acceptance,) but it also saves postage, not a small consideration.
Of course, the Internet has opened up whole new worlds of information and research. Everything we need to know is usually at our fingertips. Fewer trips to the library saves times and gas. But, again, there is something to be said for the quiet and ambience of working in a library. Then there is the serendipity of browsing through a book, looking for exactly what you need, and stumbling upon something else that perfectly fits what you are working on or is the inspiration for another article, story, or book.
So, when it comes to technology, how much is too much? With all this time-saving aspects, computers can also consume huge amounts of time, if not actually waste it (think computer Solitaire and the ubiquitous fwds. many people insist on sending!) There are all kinds of interesting blogs, groups, and websites calling to us—-information to be gleaned, fun stuff to read, comments to be made. It would be very easy (and less work than actually writing!) to spend a whole day just keeping up with it all. Time is finite, but, it seems, ways to use the Internet and other technology are infinite.
So, I believe as writers we need to pick and choose which technology works best for us and leave behind those we don’t need or want. When we make use of the time-saving aspects of technology and not let ourselves get caught up in all the peripheral attractions, we can use our time efficiently, and more important, creatively.
Contributed by Marjorie Flathers