Write ANYTHING with a computer?

I’ve found this alluded to and bumped into on the forum, but never directly addressed. (My apologies if it has been, and I missed it.)

Here’s the question. Is there anything which cannot be written on a computer?

I assume the answer has to be subjective. My own answer is, “yes.” Even with as sophisticated a program as Scrivener around, some things still demand pen and paper. I need to get as close to the words as physically possible, to hear and feel them taking shape, not simply to see them appear on the screen. The two examples which come to mind are poems and love letters. I don’t write as much of either nowadays as I did when I was young, but when I do, the screen gets shoved back, the keyboard slides under the desk, and pen and note paper come out of the drawer.

Almost everything else – fiction, essays, blog entries, and the commercial/technical stuff I’ve mostly abandoned – migrates from brain to screen without consciously involving fingers and keys. (Although when I’m stuck on a transition scene, or a section of dialogue, I may print it out and take it down to the dining room table to arm-wrestle the damn thing. Usually works. Not always.)

Still, I began writing before computers were around, even before ball-point pens. Maybe writers who grew up with keyboards feel differently. I’d like to hear what you think.


Sympathy notes to the bereaved. At my age, unfortunately, I have to write several each year. Taking the time to write and post a letter seems to mean more to the recipients, or so they tell me. My letters always tell a story about the deceased. That’s more comforting than general sentiments.

I have to admit that the only things I write by hand are shopping lists or the occasial note when I’m in a telephone conversation. (But then I don’t write poems and haven’t written a love letter in a long time.)

One reason might be that I have a horrible hand-wirting, and I kind of wonder if that’s because I do all my writing with the computer, software by day and prose by night.

last year i was involved in a very intense love affair - a large component of which was frantic and steamy SMS messages … i won’t go into details, (buy the novel if it ever gets finished … :wink: ) i also understand that a best-selling novel published in japan a couple of years ago consisted entirely of chat dialogues.

i have to agree that the sheer physicality of writing in a notebook with a nice pen, can be a spur to creativity (and verbal diorrhea, it should be acknowledged)
i’m far happier sitting in a cafe or on a train writing in a paper notebook, than tapping at my laptop. i’ve recently got into the habit of writing myself short notes on the fly, into my mobile phone, and then bluetoothing them to my computer when i get home and assembling them in scrivener - that’s fun.

but one of the things i love about scrivener is the sense of acheivement one gets by seeing the binder and corkboard views getting fatter and longer.

i think that one of the reasons why paper persists and will persist is that although it’s often far more convenient to write an electronic message, it’s far nicer to receive a written communication from someone, anything from a birthday card to a love letter or a post card than an electronic message.

Diary. If I type diary entries on a keyboard, it does not really feel personal. If it’s serious stuff concerning my own life, I have to write by hand.

Actually, I write a lot by hand. The interface of paper is still unsurpassed easy, a child can handle it. By jotting down thoughts, drawing lines, adding remarks, scribbling small pictures, whatever, I can think on paper effortless. Keyboard and computer are always the second stage.

Just poetry.

Mainly it’s because ideas for poems strike me at odd times, like when I’m on the bus, and I can’t get to a computer. If I don’t write the thing down immediately, and instead try to remember it until I can get to the computer, it turns out badly. If I jot it down right away, all kinds of lovely things can happen.

I never get poem ideas when I’m staring at a blue screen.

Hmm, tough question. I was going to be all smart and say, “handwriting!”, but then I realised that I teach handwriting nearly every day using the interactive whiteboard at school. D’oh! (Though it is most certainly better to model on paper.)

I guess I have to agree with love letters and bereavement messages. Also birthday and Christmas cards - typing those would be a slap around the face. Lists, definitely - they don’t have to be written by hand, but they are much quicker that way. Notes to friends in meetings - so they can be ripped up and thrown away and never discovered on file anywhere.

Oh, and technically, a manuscript. :slight_smile: There, I managed to be all smart after all. (Okay, a dunderhead, whatever.)


Ideas and brainstorming.

As with Andreas, my notebooks tend to be full of scrawls in all sorts of directions, with arrows, boxes, sketches, and the random unthinking doodles that seem to draw themselves.

I’ve found it impossible to use a computer to do any combination of writing and drawing, whether it be sketched scenes for a story or design documents for software.

Either you are constantly switching between keyboard and mouse (an interface change which I find quite disruptive), or you are stuck trying to ‘write’ with a mouse or tablet.

Some people may be good at this, but I am not – the granularity of the pen is just not there, the surface feels too smooth, and there is a distance between what your eyes are seeing and your hands are doing (though Wacom has LCD tablets that attempt to address this).