Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Tyranny of Technology.

Nearly all writers use computers to record their words. I do. But should we consider that computers are too intrusive in the creative process? I remember some years ago hearing an editor discuss this. He stated that he could always tell when a computer had been used by a writer. He claimed to see more verbosity and less focus in the writing.
Is contemporary technology anymore intrusive than the typewriter that replaced the pen? Was a pen more intrusive than the quill it replaced? If we are modern writers we should not reject the technological advances that make writing – always a difficult endeavour – a little easier.
However, we should always guard against excess verbosity and a lack of focus. It is easy to be seduced by a block of text and feel that it is sacrosanct and should not be re-arranged, cut or altered for increased effect. Yet, too often the writer, almost with a sense of relief, reviews their manuscript and with a sense of self satisfaction cloned with a sense of egocentricity, defies anyone to alter, cut or change it. Yet, every writer must bear in mind that if any reader of their work finds a question, a lack of clarity, or a poorly phrased metaphor then that criticism is one of the most valid the writer will ever hear. The writer should not blindly champion their words, but reflect on how and where those words can be improved to focus the clarity and effect.
This is just a minor point. What I really want to explore are the intrusions that permeate our society as so many of these are derived from our technology. Writers need to create an undisturbed trance state in which to allow language, ideas and imagination realization. Yet, in our offices, or at our computer desks, it is too easy to respond to the `ding’ of an arriving email, to be seduced into the secretarial aspects of digital technology. We complete these tasks, give in to the temptation of our digital media and suffer the illusion of getting stuff done. Many of us are efficient functionaries at these tasks, but this is an avoidance activity, as efficient as a trip to our favourite cafĂ© or pub. We have compromised our creativity. Our writing cannot be as good without isolation, without entering the sacramental area of creativity. I know my goddess of creativity will not come and sit on my shoulder and dictate to me if I’m distracted by the tyranny of our technology.
I was reminded of this by an item on CBC radio a few weeks ago when Guy Gavriel Kay and Steven Heighton discussed their writing in a collection of essays “Finding the Words” – a fundraiser for PEN Canada.
So, if you want to write effectively, don’t get seduced by your social and digital media!

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