A novelist’s thoughts on using a word processor for the first time in 1989

“STILL VERY MUCH LEARNING TO THINK ON THIS MACHINE,” writes novelist Russell Banks, in a stream-of-consciousness piece relating to his 1989 book Affliction.

Banks was getting to grips with using a word processor for the first time, to get the words from his head onto paper. Suddenly having this digital intermediary, and being used to getting his thoughts down with pencil and paper, he writes (types):

Since there is no object, no product on paper emerging as I go, there seems to be no activity. That’s the greatest difference at present.

More reflections of this nature can be found in this recent post on Slate’s The Vault blog – a newish collection of trivia devoted to “historical treasures, oddities and delights.”

One other remark made by Banks that stuck out for me personally was this:

Word processor would be [a] great way to keep a journal, as one would never have to regard the text as such but could keep making entries almost as if on a tape recorder.

An interesting point, and similar to some of those raised by respondents to the survey which formed part of my research for my final-year project which asked how and why people keep diaries and journals.