What’s Mightier, the Pen or… the Computer?

I always write my stories using a computer. I may jot down fragments of a story on a piece of paper, but in the end, my first draft is completed on the digital screen.

Apparently, I’ve been doing this for as long as I’ve been writing fiction. A few months ago, my grandfather showed me a film he’d made of me when I was about eight. On it you see me sitting at a computer with a black screen and green lettering. I was typing up a conversation between a fox and an owl. I remember that being one of the first stories I’d ever written. I suppose that’s proof enough.

Since the Internet, typing on a computer does have one BIG disadvantage: distraction. Instead of just going with the flow of the story, I often get sidetracked. If, for example, I want to know the precise name of something, then I “quickly” Google it. Before I know it, I’ve clicked through to five other websites about the topic, and I’ve lost sight of what I was actually doing.

Not all writers have turned to the computer though. There are authors who still prefer the pen or typewriter, amongst them are JK Rowling and Kazuo Ishiguro.

Best selling author Tess Gerritsen makes the interesting point in the article that she “is quite comfortable composing articles and other pieces at the keyboard, but for her, fiction is a completely different matter. She struggles to make things work while writing novels on the computer, finding that she hardly finishes a thing at the end of the day because she’s spent too much time ‘perfecting them’.”

I can see her point. Maybe it’s time to turn off the computer and grab a pen and notebook when I want to write fiction. But how do I break a habit I’ve had since childhood?



5 thoughts on “What’s Mightier, the Pen or… the Computer?

  1. What an interesting article you linked to. I laughed at your “black screen and green lettering.” I remember that, but I was older than eight! I used to write poems on yellow legal pads or loose-leaf paper from my school notebooks. To this day, a blank sheet of paper and a pen make me feel like I can write anything. Though, now I use mostly a computer…maybe I’ll try the old-fashioned way again. 🙂

  2. I would have given up writing a long time ago if not for my computer. My software makes it possible for this ADD-challenged person to stay organized and keep track of what I’m doing. Oddly, being constantly on the net isn’t that much of a distraction, unless it’s a day when I really need distractions. Doing research instantly, checking my spelling or finding vocabulary alternatives instantly–priceless.

    1. I wish I had the discipline not to be distracted by Internet. I do do a lot of shifting around of sentences and even whole paragraphs when writing. I wonder how I’d do that without the help of a computer.

      1. I think it was the frustration of organizing and editing that kept me from writing much. Having to read my own handwriting, find the section I was looking for, move stuff around, correct typing mistakes with Whiteout. All the things that made writing a real chore are easy now. Can you imagine writing with a quill pen?

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