Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why, Ms. Austen! I would never have thought it possible.

Click here to read about Jane Austen's spelling and grammar habits.

And I thought I was bad at spelling.
After reading that article, I'm imagining what a pain it was to write back in Austen's day. No computers. No spell check. Everything by hand. I even feel sorry for those who had to use typewriters. Did the absence of computers and typewriters in Austen's era help or hinder the quality of her art?

Help--I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but it annoys me when I have to cross out words on a piece of paper. It's sort of like spoiling the art I'm trying to compose. It's also the perfectionist in me saying HELLO, HERE I AM. Why do I cross words out more than I commit them to the page? It happens because I'm used to writing on a computer where I continuously self edit as I go. Without the computer, I'd have to learn to choose my words more carefully before I actually write it down. WHAT? I'm shuddering just imagining it. Perfectionist or not, I think this "writing before thinking it through" concept is an obstacle for many writers. Rather than type one idea out 100 different ways like I do, authors like Austen had to plan and develop their thoughts before putting it to paper. Otherwise, what a waste of paper, and I'm sure the hand cramps weren't fun. So, could thinking more ahead of time lead to better writing? I think so. It may seem like a no brainer, but I could definitely use the practice. Perhaps I should go a day without using the paper but aiming to get as much writing done as I normally do. (I will post of the success/failure at a later time).

Hinder--I don't know about you, but having the internet always at my disposal can be a huge distraction. It's so easy to read just one more news article, one more blog. I depend on the internet for my entertainment. Writing on my computer is sometimes just as distracting as if I were trying to write at a football game or a concert. How much time is wasted by internet distraction? I've noticed if I'm struggling to find the right words it's easy to click open the web and listen to a youtube video or go on facebook. Not a good thing when there's work to be done.

How else could the lack of computer technology help or hinder writers? I'm sure there are plenty to say on both sides of the argument. What say you?


  1. I remember those pre-computer days very well. I went through college having to retype entire pages after making a typo (near the bottom of course). And in trying to erase it, I would unfortunately shift the paper a millimeter out of alignment so that the next typed row would be slightly crooked.
    Ah! Of all the conveniences of the computer, the availability of the online dictionaries to refine my writing is my favorite.

    And I have to agree with you about the distraction factor. Besides the research that, just for interest sake, takes me far off topic, I must admit that I spend too much time playing word tetris.

  2. I was discussing the pre-computer/typewriter era with my boyfriend a few days ago. I was telling him how difficult it must have been to write everything out. I'll bet carpal tunnel was running rampant.

    I actually just did a blog post this morning about how the Internet has been distracting me from my writing lately. lol.

    But yeah, I'm gonna say not having computers would probably help and hurt my writing all at the same time. I've got skinny, noodle wrists that cramp at the drop of a hat, so writing a whole book with pen and paper would just kill me. But I'm also easily distracted by the call of the Internet and end up wasting hours looking at funny cat pictures when I should be working.

    It’s quite the conundrum.

  3. Hi Kristina! Thanks for stopping by.

    I'm with you on that one. After taking notes for an hour in class, my hand feels like it's going to fall off. Sheesh. But, I spent all day yesterday writing on the computer and my wrists hurt, too. It swings both ways.

    I need to disable my internet or something when I'm trying to get work done. It's just way too easy for me to "run" from my work when it's proving to be a little bit of a challenge.