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The Computer is The Writer's Best Friend

Photo credit: Nick Morrison on Unsplash

During the restrictions caused by the pandemic, art studios, courses and workshops were closed. Those artists who had a workspace at home could continue their work, although for many the muse was lost because of the isolation. However, looking at the online images of beautiful tapestry and collages sent by many of my friends, it seemed that they were happily occupied with their art.

Those whose talents were more in the genre of pottery and ceramics, oil painting, sculpture and stained glass were however hard put to find the space at home.

I was thankful therefore that my art form, writing, did not require a great deal of space. I have always been able to create a home office with a desktop, a computer, shelves for reference books and files.

To be honest, one can scribble some ideas on a piece of paper and I always keep a notebook and pen in my bag for those ideas that pop up during a train ride – and next to my bed, because my vivid dreams often inspire new poems.

But when I think of Shakespeare writing his Complete Works with a quill or Longfellow completing his epic Hiawatha by hand, one would expect these amazing classic writers to have suffered from chronic writers' cramp.

Fast forward –to when I was at school. We were not allowed to use biros and only graduated to fountain pens at our bat/barmitzvah. Instead, we had inkwells on our desks, into which we dipped a pen with a nib. This left blots and stains on our notes, on our clothes and our fingers. The boys sitting behind us took great pleasure in dipping our plaits into their inkwells with disastrous results when we flicked our hair – as little girls do.

When I was 8-years-old, my eldest brother returned from the Army. and noting the mess I made when writing my poems and stories, he bought me a perfect little portable typewriter.

I taught myself to touch-type and over the years graduated to better and more sophisticated typewriters.

The day came when I received a generous advance by a British publisher; with the cash came a deadline of course. I was thinking of investing in an electronic typewriter when serendipity changed my direction completely.

I was asked to write an article for Haifa University journal. "Bring it on a disc," they said. Not many people owned home computers then so this was a new language.

My husband was a systems analyst and one of my sons was studying at the Technion, so they explained that material can be copied on to a disc and removed. This was before email, so I was expected to arrive at the University with a disc in my hand.

My son showed me how to use a word processor. I knew how to type so that part was easy. When I made an error, I asked him for the Tippex – he laughed of course and showed me how to delete, how to copy and paste.

I was so delighted, like a child in a sweet shop. I typed the article, copied it to the disc and the next morning went happily to the university. The secretary thanked me and said she would copy it and give it back to me. "Shall I go to the library while I wait?" expecting it to take an hour or two. She gave me a strange look and said that she would do it immediately. A couple of clicks, it was copied and she returned the disc to me.

This was a Eureka moment.

I decided to spend my advance on a computer and printer. I learned on the job, referring to David and Anthony as my Help app. It was so simple at that stage, the Einstein program. I so enjoyed deleting, moving paragraphs, checking that specific words were spelt the same throughout the text. The printer was a little more eccentric. The paper was sold in concertina-like packs which unfolded as the printer worked. The paper had little holes on each side and had to be fitted perfectly on the roller. I left it happily churning away one evening and while watching television suddenly realized that the sound had changed. The paper had fallen off and was tangling up like paper chains onto the floor. No problem. I reloaded the paper, re-set the computer and it continued obediently.

There have been many generations of software since then. It took time to get used to new applications. No messy ink or carbon paper – it did take time to learn to change the cartridges.

During the first period of the pandemic and the total isolation I did lose my muse.

Many readers are familiar with that lethargy, lack of inspiration that we suffered.

But finally I got back to my desktop, fitted into a corner of a closed balcony overlooking Haifa Bay. And when my eyes get tired I just get a cup of tea and watch the ships coming into port.

How did other readers continue their arts during this difficult time?

 

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Saturday, 26 November 2022

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