Tuesday, June 17, 2008
A recent post on Tools for Thought makes the intriguing observation that drafting on a laptop (or any computer hooked up to the Internet) might in fact be less effective for some writers because it allows them to interrupt the writing process (and the thinking that goes along with it)--and therefore limits their productivity. Andre, the author, notes that when he drafts in longhand, he must forego looking things up as they occur to him (as well as forego other distractions such as e-mail). He writes,
Looking things up midstream is the ultimate crutch activity. Before the age of persistent connection, I wrote hundreds of thousands of words without it ever occurring to me that I couldn’t continue without slotting in a missing piece of information.
I usually restructured the writing to do without the information, which was often gratuitous anyway, especially if it didn’t come to mind before I started writing. Otherwise I would simply make a note to look it up after I finished my draft, adding it retroactively. A draft that’s structurally coherent can withstand a few holes in the edifice that need to be filled in afterward. I realized that I had lost my ability to act on incomplete information.
Writing without a computer, in contrast, allows him to manage what he calls "batched output." As Andre sees it, "I believe that to maximize output we need to simultaneously minimize input."