Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

The Quandaries of Writing Technology

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Some days, I want to just adopt Wendell Berry’s approach and write only with pen and paper. It seems simpler, more genuine, less about the newest thing or the formatting . . . the words. The words are central.

But I don’t. I write on a computer like many of us. In fact, I write either directly here in WordPress for my blogs, or I write in Word. I don’t write in Scrivener or Evernote. Just Word because, truthfully, that’s what I learned first and what I find simplest.

That said, I hear great things about both Scrivener and Evernote. In fact, I just downloaded the Scrivener trial yesterday because a client uses it to compose and might like me to have it edit his work on it.  And I’ve had Evernote on my phone for a while because it helps me keep track of ideas when I’m out and about.  But something in me is hesitant to pick up these technologies for my writing, as great as so many people find them to be.

I think the thing is that I don’t want to lose even more of my writing time to technology. I already spend literal hours on Facebook, Twitter, and email. I took on Dropbox recently, and while I love it, I haven’t explore most of its features because, well, yeah, I want my time. A client uses Trello to track projects, so I’m getting to know that tool, too, but the idea of learning new technologies and then adding more things to my writing day, it honestly stresses me out a bit.

Maybe the issue is just the learning curve, and I would find that with practice I saved time with these technologies, and because I’m using them with clients, I may well change my tune on this.  (I’ll let you know if I do.)

But there’s also something else at work here – I want my writing to be focused on the words, not the newest formats or the great ability to lay in photos or links.  I want my words to be the most crucial part of anything I write because I’m a writer, not a graphic designer or marketer (as much as today’s writing world asks those things of me.)

So for now, I’m sticking to Word. It may not be Wendell Berry’s pen and paper, but it’s good enough for me.

What technologies do you use to write? How do you feel about all these new tools? Love them? Loathe them?

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • http://slateriver.wordpress.com/ Joanne Yeck

    I use WordPerfect X4, which I did not learn first but know best and have used the longest. Anyone remember Word Star? I bought my first 64K PC in 1981 . . .

    I’m not as conversant with Word, but use it as well. It is easy to save my WordPerfect documents in Word and other “forms.”

    WordPerfect takes care of all my needs and there are many functions I’ll never use. Like most writers, I just need a smart typewriter!
    Joanne Yeck recently posted…Buckingham Slate: “The Very Best Quality”My Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      I haven’t used Wordperfect in a long time, but I liked it when I did, Joanne. And yep, I kind of miss my Brother word processor from college (except for the small screen). Simple, single purpose. Easy.

  • http://www.riverofthoughts.com Christine Niles

    I used to snap up the newest technology and got really excited about learning it for the sake of it, but over the past few years, I’ve lost that passion.

    Now, I’m not averse to learning something new if I’m confident it will solve a need–I moved to Scrivener because I find it a lot easier than Word to organize and shuffle around the little bits and pieces in which I write…but I still use Word for single pieces and for sharing edits/changes with other team members.
    Christine Niles recently posted…How To Punch A Hater In The FaceMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Yeah that is one thing that’s hard in Scrivener – editing. I really love Word’s track changes feature for that. And it makes me feel better that you, with all your tech know how, has not tried to learn it all. :)

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com jennifer

    I know! I love technology, but I get overwhelmed by tools and systems. I can’t keep track of all my tracking systems! I want to rely on my head, but that’s becoming increasingly ridiculous. I use pages for mac, and dropbox, and the cloud. they are the easiest. But who knows.
    jennifer recently posted…Scenes from a VisitMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Yeah, we can’t do it all . . . we just have to use what we need and not sacrifice the writing in the meantime, I think. Thanks for reading, Sugar.

  • http://godsgunnysays.wordpress.com Robert Neff

    I’m almost with you as to pen and paper. Actually I use pencil and paper. I still use the “Columbus Method” of typing (look for, discover, and land) so I bought ‘Dragon’ to do my typing for me.
    I think more clearly with a legal pad in front of me. I envy those who have a much greater grasp, and are comfortable with, the latest technologies.

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      I think it’s pretty sophisticated that you use Dragon. Do you find it useful? I’ve thought about it for my dad who doesn’t type. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.lindawis.com Linda C. Wisniewski

    I’ve downloaded the trial of Scrivener too, but have yet to do much with it. I write longhand with a pen for rough drafts, unless it’s a news article, then I’ll type the rough draft directly onto Word. I use Word for my essays, memoirs and fiction, because I know it well. It’s just not possible anymore to keep up with all the new technologies, just like I can’t possibly read all the writing blogs, or new books…
    Life is short, and we have to make choices. (a bit pensive today as I just returned from a funeral, and I’m past retirement age myself.) ;-)
    Linda C. Wisniewski recently posted…Kat’s Tales – first in a seriesMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Thank you for that, Linda – “Life is short, and we have to make choices.” I take freedom in that statement today.

  • http://modernmrsdarcy.com Anne Bogel

    Andi! I kid you not, I was thinking about that Wendell Berry article in the shower this morning! That remains one of my very favorite pieces of nonfiction. (His reply, especially, is pure gold.)

    I hear you on this. I’ve been thinking about Scrivener, too, but haven’t taken the leap. I do really like Pages, which I’m a newcomer to–I just got it a few months ago because a client uses it and I was editing her work. It’s so simple and easy; I love it. And I should probably learn Dropbox and Evernote….

    But just an hour ago I bought myself a new moleskine for the specific purpose of jotting down (with pen!) favorite quotes from my reading. I used to do this religiously but it’s been a few years since I did this with pen and paper. I’m looking forward to resuming the habit.
    Anne Bogel recently posted…7 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way in 2012 (That I’ll Carry into 2013)My Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      I used to do that, too, Anne – record quotes I mean. I should get back to that as well. :) And yep, I’m playing with Scrivener for that client, and I like it – but I”M not sure I”ll switch.

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com LarryTheDeuce

    I usually write everything in WordPress or a Moleskine
    LarryTheDeuce recently posted…Communion and CommunityMy Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Cool, Larry. I have these tiny Moleskines I carry with me everywhere. Love them.

  • http://hipmamamedia.com Hip Mama Media

    I checked out Evernote and thought it had some really cool applications, but alas, I am an old-fashion gal and I stick to Word. I usually write in Word then strip the formatting in Notepad before copying and pasting into WordPress. I use a regular notepad to jot down ideas and thoughts, but will use Word for everything else starting with creating an outline. Since I failed that cursive class in elementary school, I use a keyboard whenever I can otherwise I won’t be able to read my own writing! For designing I use CS6 Creative Suite. Super fun! Nice post: great to read what other writers use.
    Hip Mama Media recently posted…Oh, The Places You’ll Go in 2013My Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Thanks for reading. Yeah, I like all the features these things have, but with you, I just find it easier to stay with the basic.