This is my May offering for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group. To read from other posters, click here.
Yesterday, I spent time revising my current writing project. I had my third draft open, as well as edits and recommendations on my second draft from two amazing (and patient) readers. Page by page I compared, analyzed, cut, moved, clarified and rewrote. And, while I wouldn’t describe the effort as easy, it was—manageable. However, at the end of the day, when I clicked the documents closed, I wondered if I’d ever have attempted something as complex and challenging as a novel if technology hadn’t become so helpful.
About 25 years ago, I thought I’d try and write a book. That hiccup was going to be a memoir, and back then, it meant either typing the thing on a typewriter, (and I was NOT/am NOT an accurate typist) or writing it with a ballpoint. I picked up a pen and a lined yellow writing tablet, plunked down at the dining room table and completed perhaps 20 pages, before my hand grew permanently tired.
Bringing up this topic dates me. I am well aware there are folks reading this who may have never seen a typewriter outside of an antique store. But I do wonder. If Steve Jobs and Bill Gates hadn’t been so brilliant, would I be plugging through round three of my WIP? Would I have the perseverance? Does it make me less of a writer because I’m afraid the answer is “no?” Not that I wouldn’t write—I know I would. I always have. But would I try something as challenging as my 88,000 word wonder, if I couldn’t cut from one document, paste to another, take a chunk from Part One and move it to Part Two, or change a complete chapter from one character’s point of view to another—without developing an inoperable case of writer’s cramp?
Trust me. I won’t lose sleep over this. But golly gosh, I wonder how people like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens did it.