Computers… the writer’s godsend or a curse?

After this last weekend—Thursday morning through Sunday—I find myself somewhat in the middle. You guessed it, the unthinkable happened. Thursday morning I turned on my computer and was following the normal course of my day, checking email, the stats on Belva’s; then the unthinkable happened—my brand new monitor shutdown. Not yet four months old and the damned screen just went blank!

Well, I wasted little time in placing a call to the store to report this misfortune and assure them that I had a receipt. Then they asked me if I had purchased the extended warranty. And I begrudgingly confessed that I hadn’t. But thank the gods that look over cheapskates like me, who think extended warranties are a rip-off, my monitor was still covered under the manufacturer. But I would have to bring it into the store to be shipped back to the factory for repairs. Which could take up to 2 weeks!

After I had recovered from the initial shock, I bundled my new monitor up and drove it to the store, where after a few moments of information trading, and a quick test, the fellow informed me that my monitor was fine, the problem was with my desktop computer. I left the store, trying to prepare myself for the worst. Expensive repairs or even worse a new computer.
In the depths of despair, fearing the worst case scenario, I informed my wife Belva of our plight. “She, like always, soothed my woes, telling me, “Call Bill and have him fix it.”

And as always, I argued, “He’ll take days to get it done!”

Her answer, “Can’t you use your laptop, until he’s done?”

She was right. I called Bill, and as I knew he would, he said, “I can’t get at it until, tomorrow.” But he was coming. I broke out the older, slower Laptop, fired it up only to discover it, too, was having trouble getting on line and was absolutely useless to me.

I spent the next half-hour in melt-down mode, filling the air with every three, four, five & six letter word I could think of, ending in ‘it’-‘itch’ and ‘unk’—and, having been born and raised in the land of Idaho, where cowboys, farmers, mill workers, and lumber jacks abound, my vocabulary of swear words is vast, Humongous even!
Belva silenced me with one of her reproachful looks, poured a scotch and handed it to me. Baffled and defeated, I retreated to my lounger to lick my wounds and pout. It was during this bout of sulking, that I came up with the subject for this blog.

When I first started writing, I used a pencil with an eraser and a tablet of lined paper. Life was simple then, I simply rubbed out my atrocious spelling errors and changes of wording with hardly a thought. Ending up with a fairly neat and clean product.

Then came the ballpoint pen, which was easy to use, but filled with ugly strike-throughs and scribble-outs—impossible to cleanup, leaving nothing to be done but laboriously recopy once or twice, to hopefully achieve a totally clean end product.

Then came the typewriter, which I could never perfect, even though I could play fair piano—classical as well as some mean boggie-woogie. Oh, I could type what I was reading at a fair 60+ words per minute with minimal mistakes—and white out repaired those, but I could not for the life of me type and think at the same time. Character and plot, along with accuracy went all to hell when I tried to think and type. I had to write it with pencil or pen, then type it.

But then came the computer! For some reason the computer key board was more forgiving. Oh, sure I look at the keyboard when I type, but I have invented my own finger positions. And now I can compose and key in the words at the same time, while thinking about my story. But only if the damned thing keeps working, and the monitor doesn’t go black. And when the computer breaks down, there is absolutely nothing I can do, but wait for it to get fixed. If my pencil broke I just sharpened it. If my pen broke or run out of ink I could buy another one for 59 cents. Life was so simple then. But like all things, “Once you’ve been to Paris, it’s damned hard to be satisfied back down on the farm!” The Computer is here to stay and I might as well get used to it!

“Belva, more Scotch please.”


P.S.: Bill finished all the repairs Sunday afternoon.

7 responses to “Computers… the writer’s godsend or a curse?

  1. *laughs*

    I’m a child of the computer age, Wally, so it’s hard to remember anything different. We got our first Apple when I was eight or so and twenty plus years later my father has gone back to Apple. I still remember that tiny green screen and it amazes me so much how far we’ve come.

    Anyhow, I married a computer geek. 😛 So repairs in this house don’t usually take long (but damn they can be expensive!), however I’ve got backup after backup just in case my laptop goes down.

    There’s my smaller (and slower) Netbook and my cell phone (crazy but true!) should things go south. In a pinch I could probably beg my husband for use of his desktop. *laughs* And there’s half a desktop which could be rebuilt if necessary in the garage.

    I am also a habitual backer-upper and have not only back ups on my husbands desktop but on an external harddrive, CDs, my phone, my CPs, and email (Google mail actually makes a great place for story backups just in case). I’ve heard too many horror stories and had too many close (and one awful not so close) calls to not be excessive about saving my information.

    For years though, through all the computer access I’ve had, I did a lot of writing in notebooks. And still do! But it’s always been easier (and faster) for me to write on computers. It’s less painful for one (I’ve got a mild case of arthritis in my hands) and seems to go a LOT faster because I don’t have to turn around and transcribe everything I’ve just written by hand. 😀


  2. I love the ability to pick up a paragraph—an entire chapter even—and move it. Internet research is much faster than a trip to the library. So, yes, I love my computer.

    Interestingly, however, is that while I write my novels on my laptop, I begin and usually complete all of my poems on a legal pad—law. poetry. How ironic!—before moving them into digital format.

  3. I’m a bit younger than you Wally (I think), but I’ve seen the evolution of writing materials as well, well…maybe not the chisel and stone, but I wrote with pen, using liquid paper to correct the errors, and I thank my lucky stars I took typing back in high school.
    There were few boys who did – it was like a home economics class (too cool for the boys).
    I love the computer for the same reasons as Raymond. I remember how hard it was to wade through paper to find the paragraph that I wanted to change. Now I can do a “COMMAND – F” and find the words and move them around.

    Oh, by the way, buy an Apple – you won’t have any problems with it – EVAH!


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