Sunday, January 16, 2011

Is There Such A Thing As The Perfect Writing Tool?

Here's a link I saw via PGS contributor Chiles Samaniego's Facebook: Disillusionment, Clark Nova, The Macbook Air, And The Perfect Writer's Machine. An excerpt:

One quality I think is endemic amongst all would-be (but probably won’t-be) anythings is a passionate belief in gadgets being able to transcend their own lack of talent, intelligence or discipline. At least, that’s certainly been true for me… which is probably why I’m a professional writer more by luck than by resolve.

It’s strange, then, that after fifteen years I’ve finally found the perfect writer’s machine in the new 11.6-inch MacBook Air. It fuses together both the best software and hardware of which a writer could ever dream, while boasting all of the slender and effortless portability of a composition journal. It is a writer’s terminal in the purest sense: with its excellent battery life, ephemeral weight, satisfying keyboard and instant-on capabilities, the new MacBook Air is perfectly suited to be the nexus into the inner chaos of my own thoughts, feelings, hang-ups, pretensions and emotions as a blank page.

So why isn’t writing any easier?

These days, I write a lot. Between this column and the two blogs I work for, I probably write 27,000 words a week, but you know what? Writing’s no easier for me now than it was twenty years ago. The difficulty of knowing exactly what to say or even being able to identify how you feel about something never goes away. Writing isn’t so much like pulling teeth as it is like growing a tooth out of sheer willpower, finding where it rests in your jawline and then bloodily yanking it from the mouth. A good computer can give you some anaesthesia and a good handle on the clamps, but it can’t pull for you. Over the last few years, I’ve become quite good at this, but even so, it’s worth noting that while I have written a couple of encyclopedias worth of content on everything from gadgets to film, from games to consumer affairs over the past few years, I have never found the inner strength to become a novelist… the only thing I ever really wanted to be.

As a computer, my new MacBook Air is everything I could have ever asked for as a writer. Like a bicycle, it’s a perfect machine, imbued with its function to efficiently accelerate thought and motion into speed. In its perfection, though, the new MacBook Air also denounces the way we tend to think about gadgets. Gadgets aren’t extensions of self, they are — at best — an augmentation of self. The difference is important, because the perfect gadget doesn’t make you perfect, and all of the hardware in the world is never going to do the work of making you the person you want to be. In my case, that was to be a writer, but I only became one professionally by accident, and I only became successful at it because otherwise I would have starved. I still don’t write fiction. The MacBook Air might be the perfect device, but it makes me despair that I will always come up short.

I've always been of the opinion that the writing tool is less important than the writer himself. A determined one will find a way to set the words down, whether he's using a laptop, a desktop, an expensive word processing program, an open source one, a typewriter (no matter what its age or condition is), a pen (no matter what kind) or pencil (again, no matter what kind), paper (be it in a spiral notebook, a bound one, small or big, clean paper or the back of a napkin), or even a cellphone (which I had just done for the first time last year).

But yes, I also admit the lure of the nice, sleek, shiny writing tool--whether it's a computer, a typewriter, or a fancy pen and nice paper--is very real. And just like the writer of the article says, maybe it's just a way to make up for one's insecurities as a writer.

Great. Another crutch we writers have to deal with.

And given the way he gushes about the Macbook Air, the article author sounds a bit like writer and Mac fanboy Sir Butch Dalisay, doesn't he? :)

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