A Portrait of the Writer as a Computer User:
An author's journey from ribbon and ink to iMac


By Verlyn Klinkenborg


Writing means allowing yourself to think while paying attention to what you think as you think it. . . .

Beginning writers (and an awful lot of readers) love to believe that writing flows naturally. The ghost of spontaneity is upon them. They assume that a computer is so inorganic, so soulless, that it somehow dams the flood of words. But in good writing there's no such thing as a natural flow of words, except as an effect in the reader's mind. The real labor - and the real art - is considering each word one by one and laying it in its proper place. (George Orwell makes a version of this point in his seminal essay, "Politics and the English Language.")

All writing is revision. (Just look at William Wordsworth's manuscripts.) And revision is where computers come in handy. They make it easy to revisit any sentence, any paragraph, and to write from the middle instead of the end. And they make seeing the results of your revisions effortless. They bring the task of revising your words as close to the dexterity of thought as it is ever likely to get. And, in a certain sense, because computers make managing text so effortless - no retyping yet another draft when you thought you were finally finished - they remove any plausible excuse for not getting every single word, every single phrase, just the way you want it. (Not that there ever was a plausible excuse.)


from A Portrait of the Writer as a Computer User:
An author's journey from ribbon and ink to iMac.

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