Does what you’re writing on change the things you’re writing? If I’ll transfer this first sentence from WordPress to my MS-Word, will the second sentence be different? What if I change the size of the window? Will a story written in a tiny space be smaller, will it feel claustrophobic to read? What if I write on paper? How much can you fine-tune it? Can we discern in the text, like the very of finest wine tasters, the version of Word the author used?
A lot of writers seem to think like that. It’s the central theme in book about typewriters, which I’ll buy as soon as I remember its title. The century or so of typewriters has certainly changed literature, but was it the typewriter or the pulp magazine that changed it? The descent of the pen or the rise of the short story? Many writers felt that the machine is dragging the story out of them, that the clicking and chiming of their typewriters lulls them into a daze from which their stories emerge. The clicking keys, the breaks from the story you have to make to put a new page in — they set a rhythm and a pattern. Does it color in some way the music of your sentences?
And computers: now most of us write prose in a desktop publishing software such as Word, and that means that every once in a while we can stop writing to play with typefaces and colors and the margin size. That has certainly changed writing for bad writers: like that god-awful fantasy novel where the bad guys and the demigods all have their own font. Does the fact our writing platform also plays songs and surfs the Internet and every once in a while interrupts to ask if it can start the anti-virus search, and starts it even when we click no, changes our writing? It must; there’s so much it does to the rhythm around you when you do. If you are the very finest of writing-tasters, you may have noticed in this last paragraph I changed applications again.
And copying and pasting and deleting sentences: for the first time in hundreds of years, we have complete control of the page. I can take this sentence and put it in another paragraph and change around some words so it would fit there, and you will never know. Or will you? Is great writing the product of having to conform to limitations? Is my new power over the page ruining my poetry?
I thought about it for a long while and then J. J. Abahrms solved it for me. In a talk about his movies and that Lost thing he pointed at his Apple iMac and said, “every time I sit to write at this thing I think, what can I write that’s worthy of a Mac?”
He got it. Writing is so hypothetical and lonely — you’re not telling jokes to an audience that can laugh or not laugh, you’re not feeling the canvas with your brush. So your something tangible is the page and the quill in your hand, the new 1954 Remington you just bought, your shining new Mac. It changes the way you write because writing is relating, and your pen pal in this case is your pen.