Sunday, October 9, 2016

Saramango on Writing with a Computer

Here it goes:
The truth is, I had no difficulty in adapting to the keyboard at all. Contrary to what is often said about the computer compromising one’s style, I don’t think it compromises anything, and much less if it is used as I use it—like a typewriter. What I do on the computer is exactly what I would do on the typewriter if I still had it, the only difference being that it is cleaner, more comfortable, and faster. Everything is better. The computer has no ill effects on my writing. That would be like saying that switching from writing by hand to writing on a typewriter would also cause a change in style. I don’t believe that to be the case. If a person has his own style, his own vocabulary, how can working on a computer come to alter those things?
However, I do continue to have a strong connection—and it is natural that I should—to paper, to the printed page. I always print each page that I finish. Without the printed page there I feel . . .  
This also describes my experience. But paper has become less and less important over the last twenty years or so.


Franz Grieser said...


That makes me curious. Saramago says:

"What I do on the computer is exactly what I would do on the typewriter if I still had it, the only difference being that it is cleaner, more comfortable, and faster."

You say this also describes your experience.

So: How do you use your Mac like a typewriter?

I've been using computers for 30 years now after 5 years of using typewriters. And my writing on a computer is pretty different to that on a typewriter: More than half of the time I start typing a sentence without knowing how I will end it. And I often jump back, change something, move text around, delete, insert... everything a computer allows me to do without having to retype.
OK, there are times that I know exactly the entire sentence before I start typing. But that is not the rule as it was when using my typewriter.

Could you explain how you do it?

Thanks in advance, Franz

MK said...

None of this means that writing by hand, typewriting, or using a keyboard is not phenomenologically different. Each feels different, uses very different muscles, and may allow you to do things you could not do before. The point seems to me to be about the final product and the absence of "ill effects" in the final product. I don't think I write better or worse sentences, paragraphs, or pages due to the equipment I use. My style is not affected by the tools I use (or do not use).

In some ways this is clearly rather subjective, and if using a keyboard has ill (or good) effects for your style, there is not much that I (or Saramango) can say.

About the phenomenology of composing: It seems that the difference is not how we write on the Mac, but rather how we used to type on the typewriter. I often x'd out parts of sentences (or entire sentences) just because I did not know how a sentence would end when I started it. Re-typing pages was what took most of the time for me. I would also often change sentences by hand and then type the page again. The keyboard is "cleaner, more comfortable, and faster" because I don't have to re-type pages again. "Everything is better.

To say it again, the "computer has no ill effects on my writing." Nor does switching "from writing by hand to writing on a typewriter."



Franz Grieser said...

Thanks Manfred.

Well then I probably misread the quotation.

Writing on a computer does not make my writing worse, I'd say. On the contrary: Computers make the process of writing easier for me (I don't have to retype pages) and it makes the outcome better (I now bother to change sentences/words that I wouldn't have changed on a typewriter because I wasn't willing to retype the entire page because of a slightly better wording).