Thursday, September 11, 2008

Embracing Technology (Slowly)

One of the hallmarks of being a writer is that it’s a solitary endeavor. Its probably the most democractic of the arts. Not everyone can paint, act, or play piano. But, with some imagination, pencil and paper--almost anyone can write. Also it requires little technology to do so, just an imagination and some elbow greese. My interaction with machines (e.g computers) is limited to dumping my thoughts from my brain onto the white screen, which happens relatively easy if you can type fast, and an occasional email check a few times a day (ok, I'm lying, a few times an hour.)

All the fun happens away from the computer: eavesdropping on juicy conversations, the pictures that creep inside your head, all of the poetry, the sounds, and colors that only writers can create with language. Writers do this all in our heads and in our notebooks. It’s only when we want to publish it or enter it into the market do we have to encounter the computer.

And yet, fate has it that I learn Adobe InDesign, a computer software that would enable me to do more things as an editor, such as laying out The Carousel which will replace our former Writer’s Carousel and Brochure. My uncle used to say to me “You’re way too young to be so rigid.” Alas!, I will now have to spend the next couple of weeks playing with this new system so that I can, join my peers and embrace this machine that continues to find ways to bring you in.

Is it old fashion of me to think that computers distract us from our work or is there some validity to my suspicion?

1 comment:

Mark said...

I struggle with that, too. Especially since I make my money from working on the computer. So it probably has an even stronger pull on me. But I've managed to reach a bargain.

The thing is, the computer does several things besides acting as a typewriter. If you're talking about just the effect on your writing, then yes, it can be a distraction. But lots of things can be distractions. The TV. The endlessly broken-down car in the garage. The forever battle against the encroachment of weeds in the garden.

There are always things you can use to create excuses for not writing, even subconsciously. Even if it's being tempted, and indulging that temptation, to browse silly YouTube videos. Or playing a video game. Or playing with the colors or alignments of text in the document you're making, rather than focusing on creating the content.

The bargain I've struck is that I'll give the computer attention in all the other ways it wants it, but when I sit down to write, that's what I'm doing. And nothing else is going to pull my attention away.

I think that once you get past the novelty of the technology it's easier to write when you need to write. It seems a matter more of the discipline to make that decision to write, and do it, regardless of what tools you're using.

That being said, there is an aesthetic of the medium you choose. Pencil on paper -- some people need that feeling as they write. Some people can't stand it, and must use a pen. Printed lines on a paper, or blank paper? Do the lines distract? The mechanical thwacking of typewriters? Kids screaming outside the window as they play?

I don't know if it's the technology itself, other than an aesthetic, subjective preference. But when I'm going to start writing, my mind turns off all the other aspects of the computer, and it becomes just a typing device. The mail and messaging programs get closed. And in that sense, I suppose, even virtual isolation happens. Telephone, too, by the way.

If only I could put locks on all the doors leading to my space, and had enough padding in the walls to block out calls for "dinner!", or "what are you working on?"

But as for the computer, it's one of the least troubling distractions, at least for me.