The Reluctant Screen-Writer

Whether we like it or not, most of us today are screen-writers.

Not that we all compose scripts, no, not that kind of writing. What I’m talking about is the fact that, regardless of what medium we are writing for, we have been compelled to do it through a screen.

Personal diaries aside, I would bet that the vast majority of creative writing that happens nowadays begins on a screen.

There’s a number of reasons why this makes sense.

1) The necessity of revision makes the use of computers more practical.

Simply put, it’s much easier to edit a virtual document using “copy,” “paste,” and “backspace” functions than it is to scribble out, erase, and rewrite entire paragraphs on a physical sheet of paper. Not to mention, it will save you from all the paper-shaming you’ll get from the green culture for wasting trees!

2) Using a computer is actually a shortcut.

Starting your creation in virtual form also saves the step of typing it up later, which is inevitable for those who want to publish. (Side note: my first novel started off as handwritten. In pencil. Yup. Needless to say, transcribing 250 pages into a Word doc was no picnic.)

That said, though, there is a substantial amount of science that suggests the act of using a screen can actually decrease our brain’s creativity.

Does this mean that starting your story or article on a computer is shooting yourself in the foot? Well, the research (as usual) is not complete on this, but it shows some pretty consistently adverse effects on the brain development of children. The lack of research on adults could mean that, scientifically speaking, using a screen to write doesn’t inherently cripple the quality of your work.

All the same, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the amount of time I am forced to stare at a screen. Aside from the headaches and eye strain, I find it difficult to get “in the zone” for any given story when my stare is fixated on a glaring white screen. It seems to tangibly impair my imagination and ability to visualize scenes and settings—especially those in historical time periods.

While some things may not require the same level of sensory immersion or focus in order to get the creative juices flowing, I do wonder how much of writers’ block these days may be because the very tool we are using to write impedes our ability to imagine.

Is this the case for you? Do you find creative writing difficult while using a screen and keyboard?

Do you ever handwrite first drafts of something, and later transcribe it during the editing process?

If you yourself write historical fiction, how do you handle the distraction of a screen? How you mentally overcome the deluge of technology in order to stay in the zone? Please do share your thoughts on this, I am extremely eager for input!

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