The Evolution of Writing (Part 1): Faster, Better, Stronger

Since the dawn of typewriters, there has been an evolution in how writers write. Some say that to speed up how fast someone can pen a story will only lead to more bad writing. That can be true, to some extents. Wen u typ rilly quick, u tend 2 mispel words or just sound stuped.

It has been argued that since writers can write faster, they have to think too fast. And they do not pay enough attention to what they’re actually saying. They’re just banging out words, like I do whenever I write a blog post. A robotic writer-churner of words, processing word vomit thirty terabytes per second. How exactly has writing evolved?

We’ve gone from pen-to-paper to type writers to laptops to tablet-sized writing devices. It seems we can write anything and anywhere, so how has that affected the art of writing?

A long, long time ago, the printing press was invented. Before that, the Bible and a few other texts were the only things were read because monks had to devote their lives to transcribing those thousands of pages. Imagine if J.K. Rowling had to write every Harry Potter book by hand for each individual reader. It’s likely she would not have sold as many books.

No one was very literate. All the townspeople relied on the priests to interpret the Bible for them, which of course caused some obvious problems. Church leaders could say things like, “God says to give me all your money and your wives. Seriously, it’s in The Bible.”

There was something else impressive about these books: their ornateness. Some might take more than a year to pen own, perfectly. And then they were filled with incredible illustrations, rewritten every time a book was reprinted.

Then, when the printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in around 1440. This exploded literacy because more people could afford books. Bibles and scholarly works were available to more people, so more people began to read. Of course, this lead to the Protestant Reformation and a change of religion, but this isn’t about religion. This is about writing.

Before, storytellers acted orally. A story might be passed down through generations, as was Homer’s Odyssey and the Arabic classic 1001 Nights. But when the printing press came along, writers could get their stories out there which gave rise to what we call today “the novel.” Not only did texts of science, philosophy, and religion bloom, but so did works of fiction such Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The books published were more widely circulated and read by more people.

This increased the flow of ideas, so by the time the 1600s come, everyone is reading books and sharing ideas. This is end of the Renaissance era. Writing is entirely about ideas, so this is important to what I’d like to talk about next. In 1868, the typewriter was born, which revolutionized writing. Before, writers were affected because more people could read what they wrote. But this device made writing available to more people because it was faster and more efficient. Like a mini-printing press at your fingertips. Writers loved typewriters. Even today, a typewriter seems a universal symbol of the ideal age of writing.

Things have changed, but have they changed for the better?

Today, I sometimes take notes in a journal and at other times with my Nook. Soon, I’ll buy a keyboard attachment so without the hassle of carrying a full laptop, I can whip out the device and type away whatever I’d like to. Even in the backseat of a car at night, I can still make notes and write. Amazing, huh? Try to do that with a typewriter. This has also changed WHERE we write (which can certainly affect the story itself), but that is a discussion for Part 2.

Typewriters seemed the natural evolution of recording words, but the next leap changed things forever. Writing words in a digital form. Ala, a word processor. This changes HOW the writer writes, literally. On Microsoft word, if I suddenly don’t like a word, I have to only delete it. But typing on a typewriter, I may have to use white-out or trash a whole sheet and start over again. This forces the writer to do the thinking in his head rather then on the computer. He must compose the perfect sentence first before typing it out, “thinking as he goes” as many computer-users do. Then again, does it not seem easier to type it on an erasable surface such as a computer screen?

Why are some writers obsessed with the old times?

Ernest Hemingway stood beside his typewriter to give him better creativity. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road on his typewriter using a single scroll. E.E. Cummings used his typewriter to accentuate his poetic style in his famous “Grasshopper poem.”

Writing has been inexorably changed! AGHAST!

I can go back now and delete the entire post without having wasted tree’s lives. What madness hath these computers brought upon us?

We can write anywhere and anyhow we want now that we use computers to write instead of paper or a typewriter. Unless you still do write out entire drafts on paper or are nostalgic enough to use a typewriter. Honestly, I usually write poems and short stories first on paper, even sections of the novels I’m working on. But to write an entire novel on paper seems ridiculous, pointless even.

Yet changing the way we write, we change the WAY we write. We write with a different psychology. Because we write faster, we think differently. We are allowed to write much later into the night, so we write differently. Perhaps the ability to write at any time has diminished how much work we actually get done!

What do you think about this evolution in writing? Has the ability to use new writing implements proved helpful or detrimental to our writing processes? Is the future the way to go, or should we fall back upon what has served us in the past? How are you affected by the change in writing tools?

Tune back in soon for an extension of this conversation on the evolution of writing and writers.

About derekberry

Derek Berry is a novelist, poet, and student located in Charleston, SC.

Posted on March 7, 2012, in Blogging, Controversy, culture, Fiction, Harry Potter, history, Humor, JK Rolwing, Language, Past, Poetry, publishing, writer, Writing, writing advice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Yes, writing will remains forever, simply methods of writing will change. Information technologies have already said their word. Will see what will be in the future.

  2. I think writers are obsessed with what worked or works for them. Like athletes who have “good luck” rituals or items, they are loathe to give up what seems to inspire them or let their creative juices flow. They aren’t so much stuck in a rut as they are stuck in a ritual. I know, it’s a fine line…

  3. Whether it’s on vellum, the printing press, a typewriter, wordprocessor or laptop I think the story begins and ends with the writer. That will never change.
    Great post.

  1. Pingback: Evolution of Writing (Part 2): Styles in Vogue « Word Salad

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

%d bloggers like this: