fingers, mouth, ears, brain, typewriter, computer, keypad etc.

Been playing around with the voice to text feature and it is very strange how all of the sudden writing becomes a thing that happens from brain–to–mouth. It is no longer from brain–to–fingertips as I have been so used to doing in the past. I remember reading a piece by Ted Hughes about how peoples’ brains are changed according to the way they write and the introduction of the computer profoundly changed the way people started composing prose pieces. Hughes recounts that all of a sudden, the pieces he was reading became longer and full of unnecessary padding. Hughes tells us that writing with a pen or even typewriter forces our brains to think in different ways; in more succinct ways and I believe this totally because I grew up without using a keyboard until I was about 20 years old. It was only then, when I tentatively started using my fingers to type rather than a pen to write with that I started to edit my work obsessively – trying to find absolute perfection in whatever I wrote. Before that, I expressed myself through pen and paper only and I remember being more contented with what came out in the first draft.

About two years ago, I bought myself an old typewriter, a ‘vintage’ typewriter I should say, from a lovely woman in Geneva. She told me it was the same type of machine that Ernest Hemingway used to write his books whilst travelling on the Orient Express. I thought it would be nostalgic to use a typewriter; I loved the idea of it but I didn’t plan on the huge re–wiring that my brain circuitry had to make in order to be able to compose the simplest of texts. It seemed that my brain had forgotten how to write anything in one edit, without the option of going back and reviewing my work as I went along. It was a serious blow to my creative powers, not to mention the frustration of typos. I take my hat off to all the thousands of writers pre–computer age, who composed their books, poetry, journalism and other pieces entirely on typewriters.

Nowadays, we have the luxury of continuous editing, spell–checking and online dictionaries, thesaurus and other tools, yet we have lost so much, merely because of the fact that every single piece we write can be edited 1000 times. To be honest, I love the purity and excitement of writing a piece once only (or maybe twice at a push) and sending that out into the world as it is. It is somehow like a rawer version of myself; a more honest version and something I would like to stay true to if I can, especially in the case of poetry, which I can spend hours and hours editing over and over again (see Maggie O’Sullivan’s poetry collections, which have been published as original typewriter copy).

Saying that, this blog post has been written without using my hands at all. I spoke into the computer and the computer wrote the text for me like magic. This has sent my brain into yet another state of confusion but the words do seem to be flowing. Unfortunately, I find myself struggling to think of the more complicated words I want to use; something that maybe my fingers have been used to helping me with, who knows. The greatest advantage of using this method to compose text however, is that my eyes are continuously focused on the far mountains, which I can see out of my window and that the sun has just started to illuminate.

I think that in the future people will look back at keyboards and see them as something so terribly old-fashioned, by then everyone will be using brain–to–mouth–to–machine or even brain–to–machine methods to write text. Perhaps the style of writing will have changed too. Just think, we will no longer need keyboard shortcuts or voice–to–text applications. Perhaps we will see the computer as more than just a keyboard and a screen; perhaps we will start having real relationships with them, just like – and I quote again – the movie Her.

Unfortunately, I could go on talking all day and the computer will write for me whatever comes out of my mouth. This is a dangerous thing. For the task of composing poetry, which (for me) must look good and correct on the page, I know I will have to resort back to the keypad but for the moment, what fun I’m having with my little machine.