Writing in a Mobile Age: A Dinosaur Learns a New Trick

I am fifty-seven. I grew up in a time of pencils, ballpoints, fountain pens, and typewriters.

I have, in the past, used (preferred) pencil or pen on legal pads to compose stories or poems. I felt that push and pull of the writing instrument on the page to be inspiring and rewarding.

In recent years, I would hear about young people composing entire chapters of novels on their phones and think they were absolutely insane. How can you track, mentally and mechanically, your ideas on a tiny screen? How can you be connected to your words and their taste, smell, texture, when you are clicking on glass that has almost no tactile feedback at all?

Then, in 2019, I had a crisis in my twenty-nine year marriage and couldn’t sit still. Couldn’t watch tv. Couldn’t read a book. Couldn’t write a letter. Yet, the emotions of the crisis were vast and overwhelming. How do I deal with them?

I picked up my phone one day while out on the deck overlooking the beach and allowed my thumbs to skip over the glass.

In moments, I had the first poem I had written in years. The next day, another. Then a blog entry. Then another. Then more poems.

So many words I had contained for months (in some cases years) were spilling out of me. I was feeling, if not full relief, at least not so bundled up in pain.

I was surprised at just how much I connected with the words. How quickly they fell onto the screen and how cleanly they fell. At times, they felt (and still feel) much like they had in my youth, as if I was not the one writing them at all but some greater force had taken over (and I am not the spiritual sort).

I still write with my pens and pencils. I edit with my favorite fountain pens and bright, cheerful inks. However, the best flow comes on the little 3”x 6.25” computer in my hand.

This blog entry began its life just so. All my blog posts now begin and are fleshed out on my phone, move to my laptop, are sometimes printed for review/editing, then are posted.

Somehow, it connects. Somehow, I still sense these words as I did when writing with pen and paper. I still feel as linked to the words, ideas, and emotions as I ever did through a nib on fiber. I am a bit humbled by this realization. I am fifty-seven and I have been forced to recognize that art is not lost or bastardized in or by technology despite the protests of many of my generation (I am on the Boomer cusp). At the same time, I hope this also shows that we are not all floundering dinosaurs, insisting that “the old way is best.” Nor is the new way superior. It’s the typewriter vs. computer argument of old which was once the pen vs. typewriter argument. And that was once the quill vs. fountain pen argument.

Ultimately, the way that works best is the way that works for the individual in the moment. When my heart was calmer I could sit in a quiet room with those seemingly gentler implements and “compose.” Now, in this moment of my life, my heart is panicky and wild and my thumbs need to spatter my creations across the glass instead.

12 thoughts on “Writing in a Mobile Age: A Dinosaur Learns a New Trick

    1. K. C. Dockal Post author

      When I first started using my phone, I had times I was a little frustrated by my thumbs. Now I just go as fast as I can and know I can fix it at the end. This too helps with the flow. The only time I have an issue is when I am really tired. Then I am likely to sling some f bombs in there. 😁

      1. Aimer Boyz

        You’re younger than I am, so you probably don’t remember using carbon paper to make multiple copies on a typewriter. Seems archaic now, and such a pain 🙂

      2. K. C. Dockal Post author

        I do. I had an old Royal my grandfather repaired for me. I would type my poems for school and had to have copies. Breaks my heart the typewriter was lost somewhere along the line in a move.

      3. Aimer Boyz

        I wonder if we’ll ever get sentimentally attached to our laptops, the way we did to those old typewriters…I doubt it.

      4. K. C. Dockal Post author

        I did love my surface: so much I replaced it with a new version. 😁 Nah. There’s no romance to a laptop. Now a mechanical keyboard maybe. Klackity klack. Reminds me of the old IBM workstations of the 80s. But nothing is like the typewriter or the fountain pen.

  1. JD

    Beautiful. I find it best not to be too precious about any of my writing tools. I use fountain pen and paper, my iPhone, my desktop. A lot of beginnings happen on my iPhone. BTW I’m 7 years older than you.

    1. K. C. Dockal Post author

      I was such a purist for so long but it wasn’t because I was snobbish about it. I just wrote faster, better that way. I’m not even sure I can write creatively on paper anymore. At least for now. I am writing snails again, though for the first time in a long time. That’s nice. I guess that’s a different sort of creativity.


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