Jose Saramago on writing via keyboard

Via Taking Note, a quote from Jose Saramago about switching from writing on a typewriter to writing on a computer:

"The truth is, I had no difficulty in adapting to the keyboard at all. Contrary to what is often said about the computer compromising one’s style, I don’t think it compromises anything, and much less if it is used as I use it—like a typewriter. What I do on the computer is exactly what I would do on the typewriter if I still had it, the only difference being that it is cleaner, more comfortable, and faster. Everything is better. The computer has no ill effects on my writing. That would be like saying that switching from writing by hand to writing on a typewriter would also cause a change in style. I don’t believe that to be the case. If a person has his own style, his own vocabulary, how can working on a computer come to alter those things?" José Saramago, in an interview in the Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 155.

I find the zealotry about this kind of stuff to be a mixture of frustrating and amusing.

People are always going to have their personal preferences. I think mechanical typewriters are cool pieces of machinery and craftsmanship, and if I had a lot of money to spare, I would probably have more than just one. However, I barely use the Smith-Corona I've got, because long- or even medium-form writing is a hell of a lot easier and more convenient on my laptop. I prefer pen and paper for my note-taking–while it's not searchable, I remember stuff better when I write it by hand. Plus, I don't find that I spend that much time searching through my notes anyway.

The point, however, is that those preferences are mine. Different tools work differently for everyone. What I find troubling is when people make broad arguments about the fitness-to-purpose (or lack thereof) of a given tool. If you don't like writing books on a computer, fine, but that doesn't mean that a typewriter or pen-and-paper is somehow inherently better for generating a novel.

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