“I am in negotiations to buy Stephen King’s Wang”

I swear I am an adult, but I couldn’t pass up that title. The readings this week have quite possibly become my favorite this semester as writing is an amazingly personal experience, and I truly connected with a lot of what these authors had to say about the writing process. I also think my generation is one of the bridge generations between hand writing and computer writing, and for that I count myself lucky. I remember taking typing classes in elementary and middle school, but ultimately all of my assignments were turned in handwritten and in cursive no less. It wasn’t until high school where computer papers were expected and common, but only as final drafts. In learning to write a research paper I was asked to turn in handwritten proposal drafts, then turn in a second draft either handwritten or typed with peer edits that were handwritten. Thinking back on it makes me chuckle, because now I rely so thoroughly on computer generated track changes in academic writing, but even just last year when I was editing law firm communications I would print them to ensure I didn’t miss anything.

I have various persnickety’s depending on what I am writing. When it comes to poetry, I prefer to hand write in my journal. I like the tactile feeling of crossing out words, rewriting them back in, drawing arrows to show where lines have changed positions, etc. In poetry, I think the written track changes help me connect to the emotion I am trying to portray and lets me see how the idea has changed real time. However, in all other writing, I prefer to use a computer or a word processor of some sort. I don’t know if this comes down to ease due to volume, poems usually are substantially shorter than anything else I write, so typing them up after is not as tedious as typing a handwritten paper would be.

                                                      This made me laugh so much.                                                            “GAG PIECES ADVERTISING PENCILS OR FOUNTAIN PENS AS FEATURE-LADEN ‘WORD PROCESSORS’ BECAME A STAPLE OF THE 1980S COMPUTER PRESS.”

In the Kirschenbaum article he says, “The computer is humanized, brought into the space of jottings and mumblings or musings, mood swings and household accidents.” I love this comparison of the computer to the writer’s mind for it is true, computers/word processors allow us to give a visual of our thoughts and what goes through our heads. Computers/word processors make tangible the creative process, and if tracked, could open up whole new avenues of interpretation. It would be so interesting to have Jane Austen sit down and type out her first draft of Pride and Prejudice on Google docs, and be able to see the changes she makes as she types (as Google automatically archives all changes). It would be amazing to see how authors think as they create, how their stories change as they work through them. Often the process, the journey, is more telling than the product.

I know went off on a very theoretical/cerebral tangent, so let me bring this back to our examples. It will come as no surprise that I have used many of the example word processors we were to explore. Scrivener was a program I was introduced to in college. It is extremely helpful for portfolios and drafts, as well as walking users through the writing process. It is my favorite word processor of the bunch for its myriad of organizational aspects. However, when it comes to basic word processing, I have to stick to the OG— Microsoft Word. Perhaps because I’ve used it since I started typing, it will forever be home in my word processing heart. (600)

RIP Clippy

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4 thoughts on ““I am in negotiations to buy Stephen King’s Wang”

  1. Ally, I love the contrast you display between typewriting and handwriting; it made me think about my horrible handwriting which is why typing is such a blessing! I wonder what would happen if we could see Jane Austen’s writing process…How would it affect how we analyze texts? Overall, I do appreciate the organizational element of word processors and how it allows us to visually edit (and perhaps de-stress).

  2. Ally,

    I love your assertion that “[o]ften the process, the journey, is more telling than the product.” That is so true! It has been very interesting to read about our individual writing processes. For instance, while I find it vastly easier to compose my first draft in Word (like you, that is my default favorite), I find it extremely difficult to edit that way. I vastly prefer the tactile nature of editing by hand on a printed out copy of my work – the pages then get brutally marked up with notes, scribbles, additions, and deletions. Only then do I go back to my Word document to make the changes and revisions there. I often end up doing this process multiple times until I find that I am satisfied (or run out of time!).

    Recently on the Ted Radio Hour on NPR, I listened to a fascinating anecdote about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., specifically how the night before the March on Washington, he was up until the middle of the night re-writing it his speech. In fact, even as he waited to go on stage to deliver it, he was still revising it, marking up the margins with notes. When he finally started to give his speech, he ended up putting it on the podium and started to speak extemporaneously. Legend has it that is the moment when he conceived of and delivered the infamous line, “I have a dream,” which was not in the original speech.

    I find these revisions fascinating, and I absolutely love looking at facsimile copies of writer’s drafts as well, for instance, Sylvia Plath’s poetry collection “Ariel” is one of my favorites. Tracing the changes that an author makes can really be illuminating and give us a tremendous amount of insight into her writing process (granted, as we saw earlier in the term, Juxta can let us do that with typed variants as well, but I would argue that it is much more visceral to see the changes in the poet’s own hand). I can’t even begin to imagine how current word processing technology will change in the next 20-30 years, but those changes will also affect the ways in which scholars interact with authors’ drafts. Although Google Docs tracks revisions, not all word processing platforms/programs do, so many of these drafts and writing processes may be lost. I wonder what we are gaining (or conversely giving up) by going “all digital”?

    PS. I wholeheartedly concur that the two references to “Stephen King’s ‘Wang,’” (both the quote from Gibson’s novel and the title of Kirschenbaum’s lecture) are hilarious. Even though I am considerably older than you, they both made me chuckle as well!

    1. Thanks Amy! Your responses always make me smile!
      I agree, as I put on Hussah’s blog post about preservation– it is hard to go completely digital for the ability to lose all of that work seems more possible. However, how many manuscripts and drafts have been lost to fire, water damage, misplacement, and more? It sometimes seems like we are trying to hold water in our hands. I would love to study the writing process of well known writers throughout history. We could compare the differences in technique and process but also see how the advent of technology and the use of technology changed those processes.

      1. I love the image of “trying to hold water in our hands”! By the way, I had an uncle who was working on his Ph.D. in the mid-1960s. He has finished all of his coursework and was simply finishing his doctorate thesis. There was a student riot, however, and his academic building was completely destroyed by fire. He lost his ***entire*** thesis and all of his notes. Ultimately, he decided against re-writing it and was simply “ABD.” I can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak…

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