THE METAMORPHOSIS OF WRITING by Miko Johnston

Miko first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from New York University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. She is the author of the A Petal In The Wind Series; Book III – The Great War has just been released and is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington.

 

Happy New Year, everyone. A fresh year, a fresh beginning. Time to dig out that half-finished novel, or start a new one. There’s nothing better than curling up on a winter’s day and writing, which made me think….

Where do you write? For the past year my preferred spot has been a comfy chair in my bedroom, but I have a number of places that suit me, both at home and elsewhere. The reason is simple – I own a laptop computer. This has changed not only where I write, but how I write.

Like many of us in the craft, I began writing when I learned how to in first grade. I’d sharpen my yellow pencil and print words in my composition book – the ones with the black and white ‘marble’ cover – eventually switching to ballpoint pen and spiral bound notebook after I’d mastered cursive and good penmanship. That allowed me to write at home, the library, school cafeteria or a friend’s house, as long as I had a good light source. It worked well, except when story ideas erupted; I couldn’t write as fast as I thought.

I learned to type in high school and purchased a used manual typewriter when I began college. It sat on my desk, set near a window, with a swing arm desk lamp for writing at night. My typewritten work looked more professional, but the carbon copies were awful and my creative spurts still outpaced my typing. I hated making mistakes, a nightmare to fix until I discovered correction fluid in the eighties. However, typing forced me to think about my work since it was tedious to redo significant portions. I usually began with a hand-written copy and transcribed it to typing paper.

The electric typewriter worked much better; I could type faster, which allowed me to keep up with my thoughts. Mistakes were easier to correct, though major changes still required major retyping. Being electric it required a nearby outlet, and it wasn’t portable, so I had to resign myself to type at my desk. I sat with my back to the window for natural light and kept my desk lamp. Pad and pen filled in for other locations.

In the early nineties I worked in a windowless cubbyhole. That’s when I began to use my desktop computer at work for writing. The ability to not only make corrections, but to cut and paste, became a game changer for me. I could let my thoughts pour out, then go back and rearrange them, condense them, or flesh them out with ease. For the first time, I could write faster than I could think. I still had to work in one spot, but pen and pad filled in when I was away from work.

My first personal computer was ‘totable’, about seven pounds that could be moved and operate on battery power for a few hours. Suddenly I could work anywhere, with the portability of a pen and pad and the advantages of a word processor. Lighting wasn’t an issue; in fact, rather than sitting with my back to the window, I could now face it and have something other than a blank wall to stare at while waiting for inspiration to strike. Email allowed me to electronically transfer my work between home and office.

I currently write on a compact laptop that weighs about three pounds and has a battery life of at least six hours, longer if I turn off the wifi. It has its own black ‘jammies’, a padded slipover case to protect it when I travel. The portable computer fits in my larger purses, tote bags and suitcases. I can write anywhere. And I have. In just about every room in my house. On my deck. In hotel rooms, airport lounges, airplanes, boats, coffee shops and friends’ houses. I no longer have to plan out what I’m going to write before I commit it to the page – the ease of changing words, paragraphs and whole chapters means I can work freeform. Get my thoughts down and clean it up later. Of course, it’s also made it easier to constantly tinker with my pages, tweak a word, delete a comma, or cut that wonderful line that doesn’t serve the story.

Technology has changed the way I write in other ways as well. I presently do not have a desk. My handwriting, which used to be neat and easy to read, is neither without great concentration. I’m not as disciplined about organizing my thoughts as I was in the typewriter era, when changes or corrections required a major effort. I must always write a draft version of any notes or letters before committing my words to stationery. Then again, I’m also not obsessed with getting it ‘right’ on the first draft. Storing earlier drafts and critiques of my work in progress no longer requires multiple shelves of loose leaf binders and cartons filled with copies of printed pages covered with hard-to-read scribbled notes. I also love the idea of sending e-copies of my manuscripts to my publisher instead of mailing hard copies.

What about your writing journey? How has technology changed the way you write?

 

26 thoughts on “THE METAMORPHOSIS OF WRITING by Miko Johnston”

  1. Great post, Miko! And what a writing journey (technology wise) the last couple decades have been. I remember my first computer way back when, a Commodore with 8 or 16k (I forget which) of memory! And yes, word processing has been a great enabler for me also. Rewriting is now part of my “process,” not the drudgery “fixing” it used to be

    Though, I still prefer writing at my desktop versus laptop. Key board and screen issues.

    Great way to start my new year–remembering all the great writing advances I’ve been lucky enough to participate in. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I never owned a desktop, but I can understand your preference for it over a laptop. It must feel more anchored in place. Either way, computers have certainly simplified the writing process. Maybe that’s part of the reason why so many of us are writing?

      Like

  2. I identified with so much of the description of your writing metamorphosis! However, I still prefer my desktop to a laptop, too. And I generally do a printout of my first draft to read it over, mark changes, then enter them onto my computer for my final editing–a habit I’ve kept over time. I really enjoyed this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I hadn’t thought about it before, but your right! Computers make first drafts much faster. I do like to write by hand, and I will use a notebook and pen when I travel. My handwriting never was legible despite the efforts of the nuns, so I can’t say it’s gotten worse over the years.

    Like

    1. I know many writers who prefer to write by hand first and then transfer it to the computer, usually a desktop. Some do it so they can write anywhere, but sometimes it’s because they’re old-school and prefer pad and pen. I rarely go the pad and pen route anymore. I can write legibly, or rapidly, but not both : )

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When I wrote my Nancy Drew-inspired mysteries in sixth grade I used pen and paper. By the time I returned to writing mysteries decades later, I had the luxury of a word processor. I had to endure a typewriter for school papers, but thankfully I didn’t have to for my writing career. The typewriter is one item I don’t miss and am not nostalgic about. Although years ago a screenwriter lived in the apartment above me and I found his late night typing surprisingly soporific.

    I write longhand for the creative part of my writing before sitting at the computer. The cut/copy/paste function is a godsend. I agree about finding it easier to catch errors on the printed page.

    Good post, Milo!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can almost hear the rhythmic drone of that screenwriter’s typewriter coming through the ceiling. I can’t imagine using one now, perhaps because I still associate typing with smoking. Another era. Thanks for stopping by, Maggie.

    Like

  6. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane! My path was similar to yours, except that I’ve always had terrible handwriting–the only “D” I ever got was in the second grade, in handwriting. My mom gave me my first typewriter when I was about 14–a big old black Remington. I taught myself to touch type and developed the strongest little fingers in town. I progressed to a Smith-Corona electric portable that saw me through college and beyond, and by then I’d been terribly spoiled by the IBM Selectric. In fact, when the Correcting Selectric came along, I swore it could never get any better than that. Hah! I resisted the computer age for a few years, but of course I became a total addict. I use a desktop for most of my “production” work but occasionally go with the laptop if I feel like moving around. And like many others, I find I do my best creative work with pen and paper, although I still can’t keep up with my thoughts, so the result is often frustratingly illegible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh how I loved my Selectric. That is, until I discovered the computer. But it sounds like you, and many of us, like to go old-school sometimes. I borrowed my husband’s desktop, with a screen large enough to display two pages at a time, to edit my last book. Sitting at a desk again felt nostalgic, as does writing with pen and paper.

      Like

  7. I can surely empathize. My handwriting has deteriorated over the years, though I can still manage something legible if I write s…lo…w…l….y. However, I can keep up with my thoughts better when I write on the computer. Thanks for stopping by, Avis.

    Like

  8. From a fountain pen early on because I loved the color and flow of the ink, to printing rather than cursive writing starting in about the fifth grade because I wanted to make sure everybody could read whatever I wrote, now to lovely computers that allow me to move words and paragraphs to where they belong, I have loved the advances in technology. Now if technology would stop trying to improve what ain’t broke (like Windows XP for Windows 10), maybe I would like it more. I suggest those making computer programs try actually doing work on these newer computers and see that they don’t work like the older ones do. But other than carving my work in stone, I’ve pretty much done it all and love the computer age.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I enjoyed reading about your journey through writing at different stages. It’s very interesting to me to see how other writers proceed being relatively new at actually writing something that I publish. But then I have to stop and realize that even though it wasn’t my job to be a writer I have published many times in a number of different ways off in my life. But now I write novels and it’s really all I want to write anymore. And I write longhand and then convert to a desktop. And I do that by dictating using Dragon Speaking naturally. That has helped me so much both from time considerations as well as how long it takes to type and make corrections.
    Thanks for a very interesting topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks, Freddi. You make so many wonderful points. As we WInRs often say, writing is writing, whether it’s novels, reports, or thank you cards. Writing is a journey as well, and like all journeys, we must find the best path for ourselves. Continued success with your journey. One of our missions at The Writers in Residence is to encourage and support all writers.

    Like

  11. A wonderful post, Miriam. It was almost like a story I got caught up in, seeing the little girl with a yellow, eraser-tipped pencil, the college student, worker, married woman, and at last a retired lady-of-leisure using the latest of technology.
    I too went from pencils and pens to manual and electric typewriters and for a while had a clunky laptop which refused to work most of the time and which I gave away. I’ve only gotten as far as a desktop PC at present, although I’ve considered a fast, powerful, new laptop whenever I walk past the Microsoft store.
    But… for me, that would that be an added piece of technology that I really don’t need.
    My writing comes in small pieces – articles, short stories, letters, blog posts. I don’t need a laptop really, because I have no novel or series that takes months (years?) of writing. If I do wax whimsical and want to free write or plot out a story or article, I find myself going back to a spiral notebook and a good Paper Mate Profile pen…. when the muse strikes me.

    Like

    1. As a journalist, notebook and pen must feel natural to you, Jackie. You’ve produced a lot of good work that way. It shows that no matter what method we use, whether old school or new tech, we still write. That’s what counts.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for stirring up memories and thoughts. I don’t write novels, but write poems and edit books. I liked writing even as a child in the 1950s. I was fascinated by the mimeograph and the hectograph–the idea of words that were reprinted multiple times. I went through university partly on an “Underwood Noiseless” manual and on the same Corona portable manual typewriter that my mother and her sisters had used through college in the 1930s and early 1940s. After university and through graduate school, I had a Smith Corona electric. It was a great improvement. Eventually, my wife and I got a used Compaq “portable” computer that weighed about 28 pounds. That gave way to a series of desktops and laptops. The computer’s great for editing and for some kinds of writing. But for writing short things like poems, there’s nothing like pen and paper.

    The words flow gently, slowly
    From the heart and mind,
    Right down through a pen and flowing
    To some scrap I find.

    They may stay there, silent
    For a year or two,
    Piling up like leaves in autumn
    Waiting spring’s sky blue.

    Then a pile is set for typing
    Justified, upright,
    Well-arranged and looking
    A more pleasing sight.

    Jim Swindle, vineandfig.blogspot.com
    PS – I composed this poem on the computer. Yes, that works, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a marvy post, Miko! Thinking about this makes me think about past writing instruments nostalgically. I went through a similar writing evolution to you all’s: pencil, ink pen, ballpoint pen (much superior to ink pen because I no longer got ink all over me), Royal portable typewriter (a high school graduation from my parents), a Brother electric typewriter (whose name was Pandora), a Smith Corona electric (Hypolita), and a Smith Corona electric with cartridge ribbons (it was so easy to change ribbons on Abraxis that I could put red, blue, and green words among the black ones with no trouble).

    My first computer was a TRS 80, which an acquaintance called “Trash 80.” I didn’t like that, but it was accurate. “DOS for Dummies” compared using its Edlin editor to “dancing with a snake.” I lost a lot of work on Don Giovanni until I mastered his faulty save feature. My first laptop’s name was Wazir, but I’ve never liked working on a laptop. The touchpad substitute for a mouse drove me crazy. I did get a laptop upgrade to take on a trip, but I never liked it either.

    The three or four desktops I’ve had are different generations of Scheherazades, and the HP I have now is the best ever. As noted you others, a computer is wonderful for revision. I used to be hip deep in paper from an overflowing wastebasket next to my typewriter. The wasted paper had handwritten corrections between the lines and going up and down the margins. Since revision is my favorite part of writing, doing it on the computer spares not only drudgery but thousands of trees.

    Like

    1. Talking of revision… I misquoted “DOS for Dummies.” The writer said using Edlin was “like shaking hands with a snake.”

      Like

  14. What a great post, Miko. That really took me back. I still have the small turquois Olivetti portable I bought from England when I moved here. And I loved Jim’s poem about scraps of paper. You know how I love my scraps of paper!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s