Ancient Egyptian writers depended upon chisels and stone as the medium for their hieroglyphics. I’m sure many of them embraced the advances in technology that introduced other resources for their passions. Yet, I imagine there were some who struggled to move forward gleefully.
There was a time when pads of yellow paper graced nearly every table top of our home, patiently waiting for any random thoughts of gibberish to find its way onto a meticulously clean surface. With my companions, a smooth writing pen and lined paper, I delight in sitting cross-legged on my couch or out on the deck, scribbling away with the security of knowing I can rip off a page, crumble it and have a clean slate ready for my next attempt.
Much like reminiscing through old photographs, I can pick up a journal or notebook stuffed with pages of deep thoughts, easily revisiting my attempts to imitate Robert Frost http://www.poemhunter.com/robert-frost/ or Erma Bombeck http://www.ermamuseum.org/home.asp. Sometimes, the words I scripted are buried so deep in the recesses of my mind I don’t recognize the words, yet I always know they are mine because of the handwriting.
It isn’t that I don’t know the capabilities of the black box that had been assigned its own room in the house for many years. My job required extensive knowledge of numerous, ever-changing, complex programs, including the infamous MS Word. Perhaps the challenges forced upon me daily formed a callous on my brain that makes it too painful to imagine drafting my work on my computer.
Seldom did I take the time to store my creations electronically. The few that made it through the final stages of editing onto the complex contraption were lost when the hardware failed. (Thank goodness for my archaic backups!) The thought of composing something while sitting at the keyboard was as foreign the thought of writing a romance novel.
My daughter frequently reminded me of the century we now live in and the advances in technology that she believed would make my life easier, if only I would try something new. The way she rolled her eyes when I’d pick up a tablet and began writing reflected her frustration in my failure to listen. Bless her heart. Instead of nagging endlessly, she generously provided me with a laptop upon my retirement. “You can use it anywhere, mom. You’ll love it.”
So I tried sitting cross-legged on the sofa with the slim blue device balanced on my lap. That lasted about ten minutes before the phone rang and I had to untangle my legs from the wire to get across the room to the phone. What wires you say? The one attached to the mouse of course. Yes, I know others may use the one built into their machine, but using the touch pad doesn’t work for me because I keep resting my thumbs as I ponder my next line. If you have never been gifted in this ability, let me describe what happens next. The perfect words you struggled for fifteen minutes to compose transform themselves into paragraphs and sentences for which they were not intended. The time it took to find and edit them is just long enough for the thought to pass and there you sit staring at the screen again. I fixed the problem by disabling the gizmo – ok, I had to have help with that too.
I often found myself reverting back to paper and pen. It wasn’t until I decided to write my first novel that I considered the time-consuming effort it would take to write a 50,000 word manuscript and then transpose it onto the computer. One day, after much deliberation, I relented and established a work zone in my dining room where I began typing and editing the dozens of pages I had written before coming to my senses.
I opened the French doors leading onto the deck and felt a delightful breeze drift in. The chirp of a nearby cardinal provided for an opportunity to procrastinate and it wasn’t long before I ventured out onto the deck with all tools in hand. My fairybook visions of spending the next few hours accomplishing great things dissipated in seconds. The gentle wind turned into a gust and blew my stacks of paper high into the sky. With arms flailing, I scrambled urgently to retrieve the papers in flight for fear of a neighbor stealing page 10 of a best seller.
Once I even tried taking my laptop on a daytrip to the river where my husband docked his boat. He often liked to visit for hours with a friend who lives there. What a great opportunity, I thought. I’ll be inspired as the river carries barges through the lock and dam. Surely a poem or some type of masterpiece was waiting to find its way into my laptop. I proudly headed to the lovely swing where I had often written in my small journal.
I shifted the mouse and pad from my leg to the bench of the swing. I tried numerous positions to no avail. I decided to remove the accessory and use the touchpad. Try as I might, I could not remember the sequence of steps my friend had shown me to reactivate the function. By the time I successfully retrieved the info from my wary brain, the battery died on the laptop. I bit my lower lip to keep from screaming and quietly closed the lid and stood up, dropping the mouse and pad at my feet. Anger turned into tears as I gathered all of the pieces and headed back to the car.
My frown turned into a smile when I opened the door and glanced down at the yellow pad and Cross pen that patiently waited for my attention. In one hand, I tossed the laptop on the seat and with the other, I embraced my faithful companions, hugging them close as I strolled back to the wooden swing and settled in for a lovely afternoon.
The transition from rock to paper to laptop has not been easy for some of us. Still, there are benefits to each. Had it not been for the stones that ancient Egyptians carved, much of history would have been lost. Yet hieroglyphics presented many challenges, especially in portability. Paper is readily available, portable and can be treasured for many years, yet it is fragile and fades in time. A laptop stores immense amounts of data, offers unlimited features that transform the written word into works of art, and advances nearly daily in new technology, but with the touch of a delete key, a year’s worth of work can be forever lost into space.
I’ve taken small steps to embrace the wonders of digital technology, but I doubt I will ever relinquish the comfort of paper and pen.
Can you relate?