Tech v Literature

Posted by Anthony North on January 20, 2011

I’ve only been using a computer for a short time, but I’ve noticed something about my writing. In one way, I feel it has got worse. In another, I guess it has just changed. How can this be?
It reminds me of an argument I heard many years ago – can’t remember where, but it was a good one. Basically, the argument goes, the quicker the means of writing, the less eloquent your words become.
The most obvious reason why is that the faster you can write, the less time you have for thinking about what you’re writing. In the past, they had plenty of time, and had the space to think up beautiful words. Now, we can write faster than we can think, so words become more basic.
This is borne out by history. In Shakespeare we have pure poetry. By the 19th century, prose is beautiful, but at long last it IS prose. With the introduction of the typewriter, we see prose becoming more compact, with less descriptiveness. And with the computer, much description has disappeared completely.
Today’s prose tends to be functional, whereas in the past it was a true craft. Mindst you, I can’t say this is a bad thing – all too often prose was overwritten in the past. But I still ask, was my writing better before the computer? Or maybe you’ll decide it’s academic – I’m rubbish, anway.

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  1. Dee said on February 17, 2011

    Oh Tony – you are not rubbish!!
    I mostly write on the computer but I keep journals as well. I have one small binder that I print the things I like and tape onto pretty paper to keep in the binder. I think that there is something to be said for having a tangible copy to leaf through. I also tend to write using abiword on the pc or text edit on the mac which are very plain jane word processors so I am not distracted bu a lot of bells and whistles. Just a blank page and then my words…
    I think maybe it is the ability to hit that publish button so quickly and easily that hurts us more than anything. 🙂

  2. Anthony North said on February 17, 2011

    Hi Dee, thanks for that. Yes, you could be right about that publish button. It IS mesmeric 🙂

  3. Jack Eason said on February 18, 2011

    Out of ‘rubbish’ comes something truly worthy Anthony. Embrace your computer 🙂

  4. Anthony North said on February 18, 2011

    Hi Jack, thanks for that. Yes, I’m beginning to. My writing has become shorter and shorter as I adapt specifically for social media. It may not be ‘literary’ but I certainly seem to be communicating 🙂

  5. tom alex said on July 24, 2011

    I can’t pretend that I like you, because I don’t know you–but I do.
    Dickens wrote that clever story with all those silly ghosts in a millisecond because he had only a few short weeks before Christmas and he needed, literally, to get food on his table for his children! I know, according to the rules, I’m not suppose to use an exclamation point there, but look and think about it. Instant publication is the sh…
    Oh and PS–not all scientists think that the universe is “chaotic” and “meaningless”. Goog “holographic cause for memory” if you’re not already aware of it.

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