Writing Tools

Technophobes and Luddites, This Is for You

by Peter Basch

In case you are completely computerphobic let's discuss – the PENCIL. Ellen likes to mock me for my addiction to gadgets by pointing out that fabulous new invention – takes no batteries, lasts for weeks, can survive dropping, highly portable, leaves an erasable mark on paper… But it is worth at least contemplating. A pencil and a legal pad insulate you from a host of expensive technical difficulties associated with computers. Not only that, it is actually way cooler to be seen in a coffee shop with a pencil and legal pad than with even the latest slickest MacBook or iPad (not for content creation, they say) or MS Surface (has anyone actually seen one of those in the wild? I haven't). And you won't be caught idiotically squatting in the corner like early man looking for an AC outlet when the battery inevitably fails to retain a charge, eighteen months after you have spent two grand on the damned machine.

But if you use a pad and pencil, you then have to hire someone to type it up, and that will certainly cost you more than the software.

Another technique that holds out the promise of making writing easier is the one Edison gave to Leo Tolstoy: a voice recorder. Unlike the pencil, it is highly uncool to use this in a coffee shop! But as with the pencil, transcription will be expensive and time-consuming. I have tried various text-to-speech programs for the computer. It comes out a little Dadaist. Your results may vary.

Ellen adds:

As efficient as the pencil is, especially for spontaneous moments of inspiration, thoughts in the middle of the night, or musings during tedious theatrical events, eventually you have to also be fluent in a formatting program to work as a professional. It's simply too much of a handicap not to. If you can't decipher the manual, and aren't working comfortably with your computer program, hire someone to teach you or take a class at your local community college.