Writing In The 21st Century
Writing is a craft, it’s an art, and as a writer, you are an artist. That being said, the tools that you choose to use are ultimately going to be the ones that best compliment your style of creating. My intention this week is not to advocate one way or the other for writing by hand or writing directly into Microsoft Word, but rather to address some of the hipsterish and/or regressive sentiments I see floating around writing communities.
Language Evolves When People Use It In New Ways
Raise your hand if you’ve ever run into someone condemning internet chatspeak, tumblr tags, keyboard shorthand, emoticons, Doge, the use of the phrase “was like,” or social media in general? Raise your hand if you’ve run into people condemning ebooks because reading words is somehow not the same thing as…reading words. I bring this phenomenon up because it’s a piece of what I see as regressivism at work on the web. The same sort of people who say that your “online friends” aren’t really your friends. That anyone who communicates via the web is lying about who they are—obviously, they’re a 51 year old serial killer necrophiliac.
It’s 2014—and yes, I totally wrote 2013 at first and had to fix it—but we still have people calling computers soulless and people glued to their smartphones shallow. And if you use your computer for your art—well, is it still art?
Just like the printing press was the great equalizer of the 15th century, so too is the PC. For writers it means research at your fingertips, limited only by your googlefu. It means connecting with people all over the globe. Exchanging stories in real time. Exchanging ideas freely 24/7. It means collaboration across the globe. It means being able to pull up a Google Street View of a road that appears in your book without leaving your bed because we can’t all afford to take writing vacations or live in Paris.
I read a lot, big surprise I know, but it’s important to say that I read a lot but I don’t buy many books. I read online, not news stories or blogs, but fiction (both fan and original) being posted by writers at no cost to themselves and free for me. And this is the power of the internet, the way it frees us from the shackles of traditional distribution institutions. If you only ever read things being published by the Big Six (or should I say the Big Five?), you’re missing out on a wealth of innovative, progressive and often radical storytelling that is unapologetic and beholden to no one’s bottom line.
I Can’t Help It, I Love My MacBook
I said I wasn’t going to take a stand for or against writing by hand or writing on the computer but it looks like I’ve failed at being impartial. Woops?
I keep several notebooks, I love writing notes or brainstorming by hand and writing in my composition book when I don’t have access to my computer. And when I have writer’s block one method I use to get past it is to freewrite in a notebook until I’ve got a good groove going. But everything I write will end up on my laptop eventually.
I love running word counts. I love spellchecker. I love being able to google things. I love being able to post snippets for people on tumblr, facebook, twitter or my blog. I love having a plot-chat on facebook at 1 AM (a plot-chat is where I stream-of-conscious explain the idea for a story to my alpha reader and get her feedback, course corrections, answer her questions, etc until I’ve fleshed out a more complete story idea). I love pulling Scrivener up on my MacBook and finding all of my stories neatly(ish) organized and ready to be worked on.
Ultimately, it’s important that you choose a writing tool that encourages your own creativity. If that’s writing in pencil in a handmade notebook: go for it. But don’t ever try to convince my my computer and my social network are soulless. Because at the end of the day, I’ve come to recognize and appreciate the fact that my computer is the tool that works best for me.
☼ Do you enjoy reading ebooks or stories on the web? Let me know in the comments.