Thursday, February 20, 2014

Word Processing

image borrowed from bing

Word Processing

The last time somebody said,”I can write so much better
on a word processor,” I replied,”They used to say the
same thing about drugs.”--Roy Blount, Jr.

Hemingway always wrote everything in longhand,
as did I, & still do, because
there is something essential for me
in seeing those words for the first time
in my unique & personal scrawl.

I’ve always been a Bic-boy, writing in pen,
though these days it tends to be with
a 1mm black-lined rolling writer ballpoint,
having given up writing in pencil in Junior High,
even though several creative writing teachers
insisted on it half a decade ago--
when typewriters were still a staple tool;
the second great joy for me while writing
was to watch my words appearing so neatly
typed on a blank page. 

For years I used an avocado green 
Underwood portable typewriter, and
you had to pound those keys soundly
to get dark even results--which I regretted
when I graduated to an electric typewriter,
& after suffering with overtyping repeated
letters, one learned a softer touch.

My typing skills slowly improved as most
of my vocational career played out in offices,
at a steel desk, with a typewriter being
the primary note & communication device.

I remember the excitement I felt,
the naked joy, when I was finally issued
an IBM Selectric typewriter, complete
with an auto-correction function--
and then the actual anger I experienced
when the VA reclaimed all those beautiful
machines, & replaced them with the
early models of Apple computers.

Very few of us even had a clue about
operating computers, so we were forced
to endure several 8 hour training sessions
that covered “everything we needed to know”
about our new systems--but most of us
could not stay focused, could not process
more than 2 hours before we interfaced
with dreaded sensory overload, and immediately
after each official government class
we would have to resort to begging
the few computer geeks among us
to perform impromptu in services 
with the rest of us;

then after what seemed ages, an eternity
of frustration & ignorance, we began
to possess marginal skills, & much like
trained chimpanzees, we could perform
certain functions by rote.

Add to this the active conflict 
of owning an Mac computer at home
because our children had learned their
skills on the free Macs given to their schools,
and by then working on PC’s at the office,
it was like shifting between left-hand
& right-hand drive twice daily, plaguing
us with active cognitive dissonance. 

It has been our children who have taught
us the skills to barely comprehend
the latest technology, & we have had to
accept our subservient role graciously.

So the bottom line becomes
it is sort of enlightening to realize
that older folks can continue to learn
new skills, and can peripherally participate
in the saccadic swirl, the overwhelming
constant introduction of new communication
devices, & even though we probably will not
camp out over night in a line to get one of them,
& we may never come up to par, we will putter
away at our own pace, expanding our sphere
of fellowship to every corner of the planet,
even though it is evident that we will only
utilize our own computers at the same
rate as we have habitually used our own 
brain--at less than 5% of its capacity. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets MTB

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Björn said...

Glenn.. I love your thoughts.. being slightly more computer oriented.. I remember the joy of having my first computer at the desk... and still I'm fascinated with what you can do with these machines.. (but I once had a mechanical typewriter).. and writing longhand I have almost given up...hmm

Anonymous said...

I hear that 5% loud and clear Glenn. One is afraid to explore though--no telling what you'll screw up. >KB

HA said...

Ah! Great reading your thoughts and about your experiences with different writing mediums.

I only seldom write long hand and it is quite good when I do that. But the truth is that I am now habitual to exploring the world of words and ideas while sitting before a PC only.

Claudia said...

haha... yeah i bet my computer can do a lot more than what i use it for... i remember typing my first letter on a computer - it was frightening and exciting at the same time... i love how modern technology keeps us connected but sometimes i just need real paper..smiles

Brian Miller said...

everything starts for me in my notebook....even if its incoherent and needs starts there...then it goes to the computer...i rarely type it out directly...though i have...i love ink on paper....

Glenn Buttkus said...

As you can tell, Brian, we have similar methodology when it comes to writing, like Claudia carrying her water colors in that peppermint box, my tattered notebook rides with me, and is carried to & fro, so that ideas, or shards of them, can be roughly written; yes, ink on paper first is a sacred ritual.

Gabriella said...

I enjoyed reading about the different means of writing you have explored. When I discovered word processing, I liked it straight away. Yet if I do not have access to a computer, I write my poetry with a pencil rather than a Bic pen. As for learning new skills, my mother got an iPad last Christmas (at her request) and it is nice that she enjoys using it.

Victoria said...

Here is another story of a life using the progression of objects. I also handwrite my drafts but must admit I love the feel of writing with a mechanical pencil. I think the graphite appeals to the artist in me that loves to sketch. No erasing, plenty of cross-outs, lots of texture.

Mary said...

Glenn, reading your history brings back a lot of my own history. Thank you for this. The first typewriter I owned was a small electric Smith-Corona! I thought I was in heaven after having had my mother's ancient black manual Smith-Corona at home..... I remember typing on the IBM Selectric in high school. I remember that my first computer was Apple lle, and how some of us used to share software which was not meant for sharing, and I had tons of disks I really never used. After the Apple lle, I graduated to my first Dell PC & had PC's for some years before my present MAC (and all assorted Apple products!) I seldom write longhand any more at all...only the occasional birthday greeting. I never wish to get behind technologically. One is only as young as one's technology, I think. Interesting post, Glenn.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

This brings back memories for me Glenn - I too suffering from a too heavy hannnnnnnnnnd once introduced to electric typewriters.

Of this PC - much of my learning is by rote - I don't understand the technicalities of what I do. But I get by and eventually begin to understand certain functions...
Anna :o]

Mystic_Mom said...

Totally cool Glenn. I composed my first poetry on an old typewriter, came with it's own case and everything! :-) We went through the tech trip in the newspaper business too - quite the journey! I love composing on the computer, and yet I enjoy writing many things long hand. Love your share here my friend.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Ah yes, have been on a similar journey. but now I love to compose on my tablet, not longhand. :) Lovely to hear you read the poem.

Grace said...

This brings back memories of me learning to type on old typewriter of my grandfather ~ But I quickly adapted to using computer, just that sometimes I prefer pen & paper ~

When I am pressed for time though, I can write quickly on the blog draft. I have another one I keep privately and its here where all my notes are kept !

lynndiane said...

Appreciate my MacBook but still like to write notes "longhand"!! I found this entertaining, particularly the chimps performing by rote and we only using 5%

Beachanny said...

We owned the first MAC and our first computer was made out of a HeathKit in a wooden frame by my husband's grad students. I ALMOST can't remember not having a computer under my fingertips - I think all but a very few of my poems are written, deleted, re-written, and edited on a computer screen. I love seeing them go up, come down, change fonts, change size, get big headings and now have illustrations for them. It's a big WOW for me. But every once in a while, in a restaurant, or doctor's office I'll pull out an envelope or grab a scratch pad and write something down with the pen, pencil, eyebrow pencil, crayon, or whatever is handy!

Nara Malone said...

I write longhand too. As much as I love taking apart technology figuring out how it ticks and then rebuilding it into something new, I can't create a draft when I'm typing. I need that slow wandering of a pen across a page. recently I graduated to stylus on tablet. That's working pretty well.

Glenn Buttkus said...

I Adore it when something you write stimulates commenters into sharing so much more than an initial response; total reciprocation.

Anonymous said...

Really depends on my mood. Sometimes I write on the computer, sometimes long-hand. I love the tactile experience of a nice gel-pen moving across paper, but then I have to transcribe...

Linda Rogers said...

Glenn-what a fun reminder of all the different modes of writing many of us have gone through. I used a mechanical typewriter (the ones you talked about pounding on to get the black dark enough to see). When I was earning my Master's Degree, we used the word processor if we had the money to own one. I remember how hard it was to fix spelling errors. You had to go into some setting which painted white-out over the misspell. I spent hours on papers, not because I had writer's block but because of the limitations of the word processor. Great write Glenn :-)