Kirsten Mustain

Editor, Grove Sun

Tonight I am engaging in an activity that some may consider antiquated.

I am writing this column on the blue-lined pages of an old-fashioned notebook with an ink pen.

Horrors! What, you may ask, has driven me to such a rash act? How can this be happening in the year 2010?

When I was a kid I filled 1000ís of pages of college-ruled notebook paper with the meandering scribbles of youth. Outrageously flowery love poems. Purple prose. Melodramatic and melancholy love stories full of teenage angst and wildly inaccurate portrayals of human nature. Heathcliff and Cathy on steroids.

However, like most people in the world, I discovered that a delete key and the ability to create words on a page almost as quickly as they form in my mind made writing vastly easier. Microsoft Word is mightier than the pen.

And yet, tonight as the sun sinks beyond the bluff and lightning bugs appear among the trees, I find that an ink pen and a tea-stained notebook are the most dependable of technologies. They are not subject to power outages or mechanical failures. An empty ink pen may be replaced for a dollar. A used sheet of paper may be turned to the next blank page.

The truth is that my ten-year-old computer is more antiquated than these time-honored writing methods.

My valiant McIntosh G-4 has finally bitten the dust. May it rest in peace. It operated trouble-free for ten years, which is, Iím told, a very long life for a computer.

So it not by choice that I have settled into my patio chair and picked up a pen. Yet, I find it rather satisfying to write this way. It feels as though I am accomplishing something.

I salute all the authors of previous ages who, for hundreds and thousands of years wrote literary masterpieces without the help of a keyboard and mouse.

Emily Bronte, for instance, who penned the aforementioned teenage melodrama Wuthering Heights. She wrote by candlelight with a quill and sheets and sheets of foolscap. Thatís dedication.

And Anthony Trollope wrote something like 82 novels in this fashion - after working all day as a clerk no less. His novels are still set forth as some of the finest ever published. In fact, I used to have a professor who said, ďIf you want to know how to write a novel, read Trollope.Ē

He and Bronte and Jane Austen and all the rest must have been superhuman as far as Iím concerned.

And yet 20 years ago I didnít need or expect a computer to help with my literary aspirations.

I also didnít think anything of getting in my car and driving to the far reaches of the state without my iPhone, though nowadays I donít feel safe unless I can instantly access all my contacts at any given moment.

It is astonishing to realize how quickly we humans come to depend upon our technology.

I didnít quite realize how dependent I was upon my computer until I didnít have it. Over the years I have come to rely more and more heavily upon my magic glowing box. I pay my bills, look up answers to questions, research various topics, shop for items I canít find locally, keep in touch with my friends, check the weather radar, find the headlines of the day and on and on.

And, of course, I am not the only one.

Some of my friends actually became slightly panicking just imagining my computer-less predicament.

ďOMG,Ē they said. ďHow is that working out for you?Ē

And even though I realize that depending that much upon anything that depends upon anything you canít control (the power company, for instance), I would never go back.

Computers are wonderful and I love them without reservation. I cannot wait to open up my new MacBook Pro and explore my ever-widening options.

Like most things in the world, technology is a double-edged sword.

I would never want to lose the ability to write with a pen and a piece of paper, but I would also never want to give up the power of a really good computer.

In a world that is more and more complex, due in part to technology, it is a great relief to have something that makes some things easier. And the value of a delete key and a mobile cursor cannot be measured.