Writing and Technology: When Is Enough, Enough?

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Today I heard about free software to help writers create novels and caught myself grinding my teeth.

Over the centuries, writing tools have evolved along with the writers who use them. Early man drew with charred sticks on cave walls. Quill pens, moveable type, and ye olde trusty Underwood typewriter followed. Now we have computers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my word processor and my spellcheck. On the other hand, given no alternative, I would etch my words in the packed earth with a sharpened stick. Assuming I could get said stick away from Scout, the dog-who-was-a-beaver-in-a-past-life.

The question those miracle software programs always makes me ask is at what point does the tool become more of a hindrance than a help? For me, and other like-minded writers, I suspect the lure of technology is the siren song of procrastination. A luxurious excuse to fiddle and tweak and poke and ponder without actually writing any words. And guess what? Writers are SUPPOSED to write words. I know, I know. Who knew?

At some point in time, somebody (most likely a programmer) decided that writing is a simple process of identifying characters, setting, and plot then shuffling them from screen to screen and cell to cell until presto! A story magically appears. Of course, if they ever pull this off, there will be no need for writers anymore, because right after the software becomes self-aware, it will determine that mankind is superfluous, and send Terminators to destroy us all. Just one more reason to avoid buying specialty software. I’m just saying.

Ahem. Writing is work. Rewriting is more work. Having this piece of equipment or that bit of software doesn’t mean the work part goes away. You just have another tool at your disposal. I am not saying don’t use software. If the software makes you happy, fine. Go for it. Just remember where the words come from.

Repeat after me:  The software does not write the words, I do.

If you want to write a novel:

1. Apply butt to chair.

2. Apply words to story.

It doesn’t matter if you scrawl those words in a rainbow pony notebook with a lime green pen, or pound them out on a computer equipped with the latest whiz-bang software.

It’s that simple.


4 comments on “Writing and Technology: When Is Enough, Enough?

  1. Why make writing out to be a chore? I’ve found it’s the best outlet for me to get things off my chest without having to go to the bar, the barber or a therapist.

    Ok, at least I don’t see the barber anymore.

    Enjoyed your post. Thanks

    michael j
    Conshohocken, PA USA

    • I don’t think she was saying that writing was a chore. I think she was saying you don’t need special tools, gadgets, or gizmos in order to write.

      • Thanks for reading and commenting.

        Hmmm. Writing a chore? I didn’t mean it that way. To me, chore has a negative meaning. Whereas work? Well, work is effort — something you apply yourself to. For example, gardening is work; mowing the lawn is a chore. I find one enjoyable despite the effort. The other, not so much. I suppose it’s subjective.

        Some of the software ads make it sound like writers can buy a product to eliminate the effort on their part. I wanted to remind folks that you get out of it what you put in. Nothing more, nothing less. 🙂

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