Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's All In The Tools

The latest issue of The Writer magazine has an interesting juxtaposition of articles. On page 11, we read about the Charles Dickens museum, which is getting ready to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth in 2012. In a box at the bottom of the page, we're told that none of Dickens' novels has ever gone out of print. That's a tough record to match. And he hand-wrote every page with a quill pen.

Across the page, on page 10, freelance writer Stephanie Dickison talks about the effect of technology on writers. Here's her opening statement: "To be a writer in 2010 means five things. You have a cell phone. You have high-speed Internet. You have a Web site. You know how to research online and make the most of Google. You're promoting your work/self on some sort of social media such as Facebook or Twitter."

As Bob Dylan sang (or whined, if you're not a Dylan fan), "The times they are a-changin'." I guess I'm a writer, because I can say "yes" to the five things Ms. Dickison lists. But what will be the necessary tools for a writer next year, or the year after that?

Will ink-and-paper books even exist in twenty years? How will authors adapt to the new e-book technology? Will iPhones and laptops give way to iPads and Kindles? Or, as Sheldon on Big Bang Theory theorizes, will we all have personal humanoid robots to take our dictation (or read our thoughts) and translate them into writing?

For now, I guess I'll struggle along with the laptop on which I'm composing this post. I'll send my manuscript to my agent and editor via the Internet (and worry about whether it will get there). And I'll enjoy holding a real, honest-to-goodness, printed-on-paper book in my hands, reading my name on the cover.

In the final analysis, being a writer isn't a matter of tools. What makes a writer are words. It doesn't matter how you get them down and distribute them. If you put words into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters, then you're a writer. Just like Dickens. (Well, almost).


Timothy Fish said...

Well said.

Carol J. Garvin said...

I meet Stephanie's criteria, too, but sometimes wonder if I'm doing my best writing with those tools. My thoughts are more deliberate when I'm writing longhand rather than dashing them off as fast as my fingers can fly over the keyboard. As a result, some of my more intimate writing I start by hand and then transcribe onto the computer.

Each of us is unique and that will play a part in what tools we choose. I appreciate the technology for sure but hope there will always be a place for the older basic tools and real hardcopy books to browse through.