Authors and Technology

I thought I’d take a moment out today and write a little about the opportunities that modern technology has opened up for writers. I have spent most of my working life involved in technology in some way or other. From an early age I have been interested in just what technology can do to help us manage things more efficiently. Unfortunately that’s mostly been a misnomer. Sure, technology gadgets have been fun. Sure technology gadgets have been clever. But overall, they’ve not done a lot to alter the time it takes most of us to do things (unless you’re involved in something that is really technical and complex). For the majority of the world, technology has just simplified things and given us even more ways of getting things wrong.

I know that sounds a little harsh, but think back to what you used to do and compare it to what you do now. Can you name 10 things that now take half the time they used to and have genuinely saved you time? I’m struggling. Sure, there are lots of devices I use, but they just make things more convenient. I don’t seem to have more hours left at the end of the day. Besides which, TV and DVDs have conspired to take away any extra hours I may somehow create.

Anyway, back to writing. Just what has technology done for writers? It has stopped us using paper to write, you reply. Maybe. I still use paper to jot down ideas from time to time. Sure, I don’t actually use paper to write with nowadays, but is that any better? I’m certainly not the best typist in the world. Oh yes, no more typewriters. They’ve gone by the way too. I remember typewriters. I had one when I was younger. They were pretty good. Annoying sometimes, but they got the job done. And then along came PCs. Simple ones at first, dedicated word processors, but better and more complex ones later. And here’s my rub. It’s that complexity. Paper is an easy medium. The latest Windows 7 PC with everything on it can be a pain to write simple articles on sometimes. I even had mine lock up this morning and I eventually had to re-boot it. Thankfully I didn’t lose anything but the inconvenience and the lost 20 minutes were still apparent.

At the weekend I had to buy myself a new keyboard as my previous desk setup was giving me a little of a back strain due to the placement of my keyboard and mouse. Nowadays it’s also all about ergonomics. Where was that phrase 20 years ago? But my new keyboard is a little smaller than my old one and I am still struggling to get the maximum speed from it. I have had to change my typing habits again. Oh for some efficiency! I have also contemplated using my iPad for writing. But that’s a little awkward too. It seems there is no ideal set up for me at present. Everything is a compromise.

Art is not supposed to be easy. Throughout the ages artists have struggled, be it with tools, inspiration, studios, sponsors. You name it. So is it really any different now? I don’t think it really is. It’s just that some of the challenges are a little different. The consumer has certainly benefited though. They can easily purchase a book or a paper in a variety of different formats. They can surf the internet and discover new pictures or artworks. Heck, consumers can even download things in the comfort of their own homes. But writers? There may be some new tools available but there’s no instant technology fix available to them. Their job is still about sweat and tears while trying to get to grips with the technological tools of the day.

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