The Intern had a hilars guest post the other day about how writers used to have more depth and suffering and had to spend hours hunched over a typewriter, which somehow all meant that they more accurately and timelessly captured the sufferings and longings of the human spirit. Paraphrasing here, obviously.
I admit, I'm a victim of the times. My handy dandy netbook is with me at all times (not that I wouldn't have carried around a full size typewriter back in the day, especially if it came with a trendy messenger bag), I've got several computers at home, and I've pretty much eschewed using my hand to "write" things all together. It cramps when I try to write a grocery list. And now I've stepped into the ultimate (nothing will ever be more ultimate!) frontier: I bought a smart phone. Well, the P-i-C nicked it for me (or should have, at least, who pays for things nowadays?)
I had a Blackberry before, but that was more like an idiot savant phone. It could do some things brilliantly - texting was a dream - but acted like a total dunce for most other things. As in, "what? You want to look at a webpage? What's a webpage? We no wanna look at webpage, blah. More cookies!" And then it would get mad when I had to explain that webpage cookies didn't come with chocolate chips.
But my new phone, oh, my new phone is a glory. It's got a touchscreen, a slide out QWERTY keyboard, Windows Mobile (don't look at me like that, I use Windows all day, I understand it), and lots of other cool shiny yum yums. Best of all? Word. Mobile. Bitches. I've already got two WIPs on the phone and I'm thinking of starting an Ideas folder so I can slap those babies down no matter where I am. It's glorious, kiddies, simply glorious.
Does this make me a more craptastic writer? Would I have given up if I'd had to write these words out by hand, or throw away an entire page if I typed a letter wrong? Would I have pulled a Nicholson in The Shining and killed my entire family by now (pretty sure he went crazy after running out of white out)? It's hard to say what makes a writer great, or how the ease of writing affects that greatness. Like maybe if Salinger had a laptop he wouldn't have been so, to borrow a phrase, batshit crazy (my crazyometer says no). Or maybe he wouldn't have written such a classic novel that has spanned generations and still speaks to today's youth.
To step on a soapbox for a moment, technology has greatly enhanced the baseline knowledge of the world and brought opportunities to cultures and communities that never would have existed without it. It's also helped us cause a buttload more destruction to a lot of people in a much more concentrated timeline. World War I was so particularly devastating because of advancing technology in weaponry. So, a little bit of column good, a little bit of column bad.
But what has it done to writers? In a way, it's made even the worst of us better by creating a community (hi!) where writers of all levels can come together and share their knowledge. I've said it before and I'll say it again, my writing has vastly improved just by perusing blogs that offer good, solid advice on common novice mistakes. It's also brought us closer to the elusive elite of agents and editors, and given us insight into their decision-making process and their preferences. And it's given us a deeper understanding of all cultures by bringing them right into our homes even when we can't go out there to see them for ourselves.
So maybe we're not drinking ourselves into a suicidal stupor while penning the next great American novel, but the world has changed. The sufferings of our predecessors are not our sufferings. Writers have adapted to the world around them, crawled out of their shells a little into the overly bright light of day, and we're all better for it. Or we can at least join a Facebook group about it.