Turn and Face the Change: Writing Across the Computer Divide
Guest Post by Dawn Reno Langley
In my 40+ years writing (I started very young–seriously!), both I and the publishing industry have changed drastically. Though my butt is still in the seat, my words morph more easily because of technology, yet two things remain the same:
- I still write journals and poetry longhand.
- Writing still feels like I’ve cleaved my heart down the center and spilled its contents onto the page/screen.
My first published piece chronicled the Cuban Missile Crisis, one of the most traumatic events in the twentieth century, the moment when President Kennedy’s U.S. balanced precariously on the edge of nuclear war. Written in pencil, the essay filled a third grade writing assignment, which the local newspaper published. I didn’t even know how to use a typewriter then, never mind knowing what a computer was.
That summer, I told the British journalist who lived next door to my aunt that I wanted to be a writer like she was. She took me by the hand, said she saw stars in my eyes and gave me a sage piece of advice: Remember that writing is a business, and you have to meet your deadlines.
I was too embarrassed to ask what a deadline was.
Later those deadlines came, and I pounded my articles for regional newspapers out on a Smith & Corona manual typewriter, making copies by slipping a piece of purple carbon paper between two sheets of white paper. My first book, written that way, survived eight full revisions. Purple fingers became the norm.
The day I discovered word processors I thought I’d died and gone to writer’s heaven. My writing output suddenly increased ten-fold. Sending out six copies of an article rather than one gave me six times the chance for sales. I sold to national and international magazines rather than just local markets. My career exploded.
In 1982 I began writing on a computer and had published a dozen books and hundreds of articles, yet by the early 1990s, publishers still didn’t accept queries via email. (Why is it they are always a step behind writers?)
And with the Internet, major changes in the publishing world itself occurred. Small publishing houses morphed into larger conglomerates, independent bookstores melted away because of chain/super-market-type bookstores, senior editors were displaced or simply disappeared. Friends who had been staples on bestseller lists lost their spots with publishers.
Writers adapt to survive. So I did, moving from paper to typewriter, from word processor to computer. I improvised, writing essays, then articles, penning books then crafting e-books. I became innovative, sliding from social statements on the editorial page to blogs that reach international audiences. These changes create the timeline of my writing career. Some I’ve actually spearheaded (like the first online literary journal in Florida), and some I’ve reluctantly followed.
But one thing remains the same: The need to write.
That will never change, even if the written word becomes the spoken. Being a writer isn’t about the process, it’s about the loveliness of the line and the need for others to hear it.
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Dawn Reno Langley is the author of 29 books, including novels such as All That Glitters and Foxglove, non-fiction works like The Unofficial Guide to Managing Time, and children’s books like Jenny Moves and Jenny’s First Friend. Currently, she is dean of general education and developmental studies at Piedmont Community College. Her blog entitled “Booming Memories” is her newest project. She also blogs about poetry and gardening here.