Celebrating the Evolution of Writing
I used to have a writing bump.
The phenomenon might be rare. Maybe it’s just the scourge of a southpaw? Maybe I hold my pen weird. It might even have some kind of scientific name of which I am ignorant. Nevertheless, I referred to it affectionately as my writing bump. On my left ring finger, between my cuticle and knuckle where the pen once rested on a consistent, prolonged, and regular basis, the roundish bump had amassed.
I can’t say when it first formed. It seemed to have always been there, evincing the tireless dedication to scribbling my stories out in longhand. Along with that telling protrusion the whole hand was conditioned to marathon writing, cramping only after many hours of continual work.
And I was proud of the writing bump. It gave my left ring finger character with its alien bulge, which I displayed to more than one set of astonished or disgusted eyes. I suspect now that it was some form of a callus, developed for the projection of the digit, much as the soft fingertips of a guitar player harden with faithful practice pressing strings to frets. These are the badges of artistic passion.
Imagine the ancient origins of writing. From etching with a stylus in stone to struggling with the primitive pens made of cut reeds and quills, and the inconsistent flow of ink through them onto parchment and vellum. Writing itself in ancient and medieval times presented scribes with challenges and frustrations that far surpass a little hand cramp or peculiar finger bump. In limited adequate daylight and restrictive, flickering candlelight, our ancestral writers worked against great obstacles in order to pursue their craft. Writer’s block was not merely mental, but also often physical.
Not too long ago, I noticed that my writing bump had almost entirely receded, which called to my attention how far we’ve come in the evolution of writing. It’s not that I have ceased to write that the former signal of my craft has diminished, only that my medium of writing has changed.
Instead of the efforts of applying pen to page, I now write primarily with my MacBook, typing at a speed that surpasses what my hand could accomplish. And the stamina of my handwriting has atrophied subsequently, for lack of the regular exercise. Now with great ease, I tap my fingers over the keys in a rhythmic, proficient dance.
The traditionalist in me still values and cherishes the artistry and process of putting the pen to page. There is beauty in the ink that breathes life over a piece of paper, just as paint transforms the blank canvas. And there are times when one needs to engage in the physical act of writing to connect with the soul of the craft.
Yet how spoiled we are today as writers to have the ease that technology provides! When I was twelve years old, I had several handwritten manuscripts that I longed to see published. And to date myself entirely, I will admit that I recall being enamored with the idea of a typewriter that had a digital screen which allowed for more workable edits than a traditional typewriter. I also dreamed of a way to speak my stories aloud and have them typed up by some fantastical force, to spare my aching wrist from cramping.
And now we can dictate to not only our computers but also our smartphones! Now the laptop is an accessible, portable friend, with countless tools and capabilities to assist us in editing and rewriting! We can even save everything in the mystical cloud!
Do you remember the giant floppy disk? Or the 3 ½ inch disk that followed with its limited capacity for storage? I lost one of those disks with a 300 page manuscript on it, and as a result, nearly lost my mind with grief! How incredibly blessed we are today with the technology that makes the mechanics of writing less manual labor and more creative fulfillment. Even now as I write, my Google Doc is auto-saving with every keystroke. Talk about peace of mind!
The mechanics of writing have evolved, a progression which is to the benefit of us as 21st-century scribes. Beyond even the adaptations of the pen and the page, we find ourselves fortunate to record, translate, save and send our work with digital adroitness and efficiency. We are no longer restricted by inadequate light, hindered with writer’s cramp, or marked with ink and writer’s bumps. The ease of writing is at our fingertips, and for those who are compelled to dictate, it’s even in our voices.
I tip my hat to the writers of yesteryears who battled against their limitations and overcame to produce and share their work nonetheless. And with humble gratitude, I declare that it has never been a better time to be a writer.