Technology and the Writer

Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Lewis Carroll, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Shakespeare—what do these famous authors have in common? All of them had to write their legendary books without the help of a personal computer. A few might have had the help of a typewriter—the first practical typewriter was invented in 1865 by Christopher Sholes—but none of them had a Dell or IBM personal computer to craft their works.

As I write, I often think of these great writers and wonder how they did it—how they were able to write hundreds and thousands of pages without the use of a word processor?  It wasn’t until the later years of the 1980s that computers took the place of typewriters.

However, among the people that had it the hardest are the men who hand wrote the holy scripture of Judaism—the Torah (also known as the five books of Moses) . Most scholars date the Torah from  539 to 334 BCE. However, Talmudic teachings hold that the Torah was actually created 974 generations, or 2,000 years before the earth was created and God used it as a blueprint to create the earth. 

No matter what you believe, each Torah is hand-written on parchment scrolls in a very exacting, Jewish calligraphy.  Given the sheer size and weight of those scrolls, writing them in hand with “crowns” but no vowels is a massive undertaking.  I remember from Hebrew School that each Torah has to be perfect or it could never be used in prayer. These traditions date back thousands of years. I cannot imagine a more difficult writing assignment. But we are getting off track. Let’s get back to more contemporary, more secular writing.

As an author, I simply could not do what I do without a PC. I am a terrible typist (I never learned how to type) and make mistakes in every line that requires correcting. I remember using a typewriter to ask some very prominent people to write books for the publishing companies I worked with at the time: Ted Koppel and Walter Cronkite were just two of the people I invited to write for us. Since these letters had to be perfect, I remember keeping a wastebasket close at hand. Every time I wrote one of these letters I was vigilant not to make an error. But I always did, and always had to start over again until I got it perfect.

But the computer and word processing program changed everything. I can make tons of mistakes and I never have to start over. But there are other advantages to writers today—all thanks to ingenuity and technology. For example, Amazon.com can be a huge help in writing most anything in business or technology. Most books on Amazon have a “Search Inside the Book” function which allows you to look at any topic or subject in the book by “typing” in a specific word or phrase. This was a huge help to me in writing the Peter Drucker book, for example.

In fact, I contend that the “Search Inside the Book” function is one of the best tools for writers to come along in years.  Suddenly, the contents of thousands of books become accessible in seconds. One can argue it is better than a library since beyond having to track down the physical book and check the index, you can search using any word at all, And it doesn’t take a publisher to tell you that no book can index every word or phrase.  

There is also, of course, Google which helps you to find just about any topic in seconds. Google often takes you to Wikipedia, an incredible source of information on just about any topic. I do suggest you double check anything on Wikipedia, just to make sure that you have multiple sources for your facts. This is important because just about anyone can enter information on Wikipedia (I used Wikipedia a few times in writing this post—you didn’t really think I know who invented the typewriter, did you?).           

There are hundreds of other sources on the Internet that can help any business or non-fiction book author. I suggest that writers use everything in their arsenal to write their books. Of course, if you are quoting from any published books or other copyrighted materials, you must source them and, in many cases, obtain permission from the copyright holder. If you don’t know the difference between the two, please consult with an attorney who specializes in publishing or copyright protection.   

 

    

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