Artistic individuals often like to make the creative process more mysterious and confusing than it truly is. Many writers, for example, insist that certain conditions must be met in order to write. These may include silence, a locked door, a special location, a specific frame of mind, or even a well-rehearsed ritual.
Ask these sorts of writers to change their difficult ways, and they will vehemently insist that modification is impossible.
While it is true that our own inhibitions may color our writing techniques, those who are truly driven will adjust, should the need arise. The human species has an incredible ability to adapt to nearly anything. We can be found living in the coldest and hottest places on earth. We have figured out how to survive in the driest and wettest climates. We’re quite capable of compensating for our weaknesses, physical, mental, or otherwise. Everyone has heard at least one story of a physically handicapped individual overcoming perceived insurmountable odds. Likewise, we have all heard of at least one dyslexic who somehow managed to make it through high school without anyone ever knowing they were different.
We are resilient, although many of us seem think we are incredibly fragile. Our evolution and history have been complicated and dangerous, and it is our resilience and ability to adapt that have gotten us where we are today.
Change is difficult, and to be honest, most writers won’t do it without good reason. Really good reason. We like our habits, our rituals, and our crutches, although we don’t truly need them. They are like a comfortable old armchair or a favorite pair of jeans. They are the kind of possession that can never be stolen, however, they can be taken away.
I used to be the kind of writer who did everything with pen and paper. When I first discovered the typewriter, I realized that my writing could go quicker and be more legible if I was willing to adapt. I’m a fast writer, the kind who always comes back later to edit, so although typing was a complicated process I was willing to persevere. The word processor was really only a minor modification to my writing technique, making rewrites a lot easier. While the computer confined me to one location, the editing possibilities made it well worth the modification. I still picked up my pen and pad for the times I chose to write away for my computer.
When I developed tendinosis, I was essentially forced to put down my pen permanently. I learned to type while wearing splints and straps, which greatly hampered by hand mobility. I learned to keep my keyboard in my lap. I also found out that taking breaks was a necessity if I wanted to be able to tie my shoes after day of writing. I still like to go on location and leave the confines of my cramped cluttered computer room, and spent many years unable to do so. As soon as I could afford to do so, I invested in a laptop which essentially had no other purpose than to take me places to people watch, world build, and write when away from home.
Eventually, further modifications to my writing technique were required. Between an office job and writing, I was doing more typing than my arms could handle, even with splints and breaks. A writer at heart, I have never been a particularly good speaker. I could barely type quickly enough to keep up with my mind, and my voice lagged woefully behind. Although I had been aware of voice recognition software since the mid-1990s, I had no particular interest in using it for quite some time. It was inaccurate. It wasn’t my “style.” I didn’t have a computer powerful enough to run it anyway. But these were all excuses. I’m a slave to my muse, and have learned to adapt. Starting in 2000 voice recognition became my primary method for writing initial drafts.
For a while these necessary adaptations resulted in my writing being more restricted. It could only happen in the same room, to avoid altering the acoustics and messing with the software. I had to be alone or it felt like someone was reading over my shoulder. With time and practice, dictation came easier, and I no longer need to banish all living beings from the room, floor, or house. Changing my methods resulted in better control of my tendonosis which has made it possible for me to do a little handwriting or typing on a tablet if I want to work off-site. The path wasn’t easy, and I often resented the need for it, but in the end, it’s made me a better writer and stronger person.
This article was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking and revised using a split floating keyboard once known as Interfaces by Cramer.