16. Computer Lust (post 2)

In the beginning was the void, for there were no computers, and I wanted one badly. Then out of the void came Atari, and Tandy, and KayPro, but I couldn’t afford them.

Then the nascent mind of Microsoft was grafted onto the body of the old giant IBM, and the others were cast into outer darkness. (Vaporware had a lot to do with that, too, but since I don’t want to get sued, you didn’t hear it from me.)

Then the Woman ate the Apple, put on her running shorts and raced through the auditorium carrying a big hammer, and Mac was born.

About that same time I realized that if I kept writing full time, I was going to starve to death. I had written Spirit Deer, Jandrax, A Fond Farewell to Dying, multiple versions of Valley of the Menhir, and an early version of Cyan. I had shoved about 6000 sheets of paper through the old typewriter. I had two novels published by major publishers in America and one in Europe, and I wasn’t making enough to pay the rent.

I went back for my teaching credential. I worked a year at half salary, just before that became an illegal employment practice, then I got my first full paycheck in years. My colleagues were complaining about how little teachers were paid, but I thought I was rich.

After a couple of years of patching up the holes in my bank account, I finally bought a Mac SE. I may be prejudiced by first love, but I think that was the first “real” computer. The Mac graphic interface was already the ultimate game changer, and the SE was the first Mac with an internal hard drive. The practical advantages of that cannot be overstated.

The computer changed everything. It didn’t make writing easy, but it made re-writing easy. I still write multiple drafts, but I only type a small fraction as many words. I correct, rearrange, tweak, amplify and delete, but I never have to retype a complete page again. And again. And again.

Two things happened about the time computers took over writing. The average length of paperback novels doubled. And suddenly, everybody was writing.

There has to be a connection.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT. If you read A Writing Life without also following Serials, you may not realize that To Go Not Gently, the novella from Galaxy which is an excerpt from A Fond Farewell to Dying, begins today in Serials. Check it out.

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