Reflections on writing and technology

Many of my articles on this blog are reflections on writing and technology. Although there are some writers who eschew the idea of technology, I believe that if you define “technology” widely enough, it becomes obvious that all writers use technology.

Even those who are fortunate enough to have an assistant to whom they can dictate their thoughts, and who will then type them up, are using technology – albeit at one remove.

These are examples of technology too!

Can technology interfere with writing?

An interesting thing to ponder, then, is the extent to which the technology you use helps or hinders the writing process.

When I first encountered Scrivener, for example, I loved the idea of what it could do: built-in index cards, project notes and, in particular, compiling your manuscript directly into whatever format you wanted. But the learning curve seemed so steep that I felt the software would hinder more than help.

Then I discovered the “dashboard”, as I described in My Scrivener Dashboard. I also rediscovered an approach that I used to use with the kids when I was a teacher: learning on a need-to-know basis.

The least you need to know

In other words, you don’t have to learn everything about a word processor before you can write a letter; you just need to know how to type, save and print. OK, and maybe how to put some elements on the right of the page. But that’s about all. You don’t need to know how to automatically insert today’s date, save automatically, or record keyboard shortcuts.

Therefore, it seems to me that although it’s true that you can find software that is so “clunky” it really does detract from the writing process, the key factors are more likely to be attitude and knowledge.

Attitude

When I first tried Scrivener I thought it was so complicated that I couldn’t see the wood for the trees – and I certainly couldn’t see, and neither did I look for, the one or two features that have since convinced me that it’s a brilliant tool for writers.

Knowledge

… or lack of it. As an example, I’ve been trying out a new platform for this blog, and for the life of me I couldn’t find how to create a link with a Title tag. That just means, when you hover the mouse over the link, the name of the link pops up. This is a good thing to have for the benefit of sight-impaired people who use screen readers that read out the text to them. It’s also good for anyone who doesn’t like clicking on a link without being sure what they should find when they get there.

I thought at first that the new platform didn’t allow HTML editing, which would make it a non-starter as far as I am concerned. But once I knew what to look for and how to do what I wanted to, I realised that actually the solution provided is pretty neat.

Conclusion

The end result of these reflections on writing and technology is that when technology impedes writing, the fault is not necessarily with the technology.

I have written this article as part of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge created by Sarah Arrow. This is the post for Day 2.