Do we write differently on screen? The question is an interesting one and one many of us have asked ourselves. I have noticed that I used to be far more thoughtful when I wrote with a pen but now since we text and WhatsApp and post online so much, I’ve become extremely restless with a pen unless I am in a controlled environment where wi-fi is a strict no-no. This must be a bad thing.
Tim Parks explains how he used to write once upon a time and how the very idea of retyping changed writers’ approach to editing. With the Word Processor, everything changed. Suddenly you could work on your manuscript forever.
“But this slowness was positive. You concentrated on the next piece of writing or the next translation. You learned not to worry too much what people were saying about you. What did it matter, so long as your publisher was more or less happy? We had personal computers at this point, but I still wrote fiction by hand. The mental space feels different when you work with paper. It is quieter. A momentum builds up, a spell between page and hand and eye. I like to use a nice pen and see the page slowly fill. But, for newspaper articles and translations, I now worked straight onto the computer. Which was more frenetic, nervy. The writing was definitely different. But more playful, too. You could move things around. You could experiment so easily. I am glad the computer wasn’t available when I started writing. I might have been overwhelmed by the possibilities. But once you know what you’re doing, the facility of the computer is wonderful.”
The online world changed communication as well. Where it once took editors months to get back, you now have a twitter audience tweeting for or against your ideas in a matter of seconds. This immediacy could be gratifying for an author who is looking for feedback but how good is it for the craft of writing itself?
Read Do we write differently on screen by Tim Parks.