The World of a Writer . . . Then and Now

Sunday, September 13, 2015
This keyboard is a far cry from my old electric typewriter from 1994.

As I celebrate my last year of being in my 30s, I’ve been reflecting on how the way writers get things done has changed since I first started banging away on the old keys of my typewriter. Heck, the landscape of writing has changed a lot in the past five years even, if we’re to be completely honest.

From floppy disks to outdated submission requirements, here are a few ways I’ve had to adapt my writing practices and techniques as my writing career has, shall we say, matured.

Typewriters are a thing of the past. Not long ago I was helping my son type up a paper and I scrolled through the fonts for some options. “You could do a typewriter font,” I told him, only to have him give me a blank stare. “What’s a typewriter?” he asked. I still remember typing my college applications on an electric typewriter back when those things were the pinnacle of technology. Sure, it was frustrating, having to use the correction tape every time I made a mistake, but there was nothing more soothing than the sound of those old typewriter keys clacking away. Nowadays, placing a typewriter in your home office as a prop is considered “retro cool,” and the only place you can find them is antique stores.

The existence of file sharing programs eliminated zip drives and floppy disks. If I showed my kids one of the floppy disks I used to save college papers on they would laugh me silly. Remember going back and forth to the computer lab, typing up a paper, saving it on a floppy disk, and then crying your eyes out when you went to print the paper later (read: the night before it was due) only to find out the paper didn’t save on the disk? Now, we can save and share files on Google Docs and programs like Dropbox. One magazine I work for uploads articles to Dropbox, I edit them and save them, and the designer grabs them from Dropbox to flow into the layout. We never once have to physically e-mail the documents to each other, and we can all work from remote locations. It didn’t use to be that easy, that’s for sure.

I no longer bother with snail mail queries. Back when I first started freelancing, I typed up query letters to magazines I wanted to pitch and sent them snail mail along with a self-addressed stamped envelope and copies of my clips. Then I had to sit back and wait for a rejection letter to hit my mailbox months later. Oh, and I also wasn’t supposed to send out the same query to a competing magazine until I heard back from the first one. Now, I can type up a query, hit the “send” button on e-mail, and get an article assignment before the end of the day if I’m lucky. Applying for freelance writing gigs is also much easier because of this streamlined process, too.

I could go on and on about how technology has changed my writing procedures and productivity, but I’d rather hear some more anecdotes from you. What are some of the biggest differences between when you first started writing and now?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Charlotte Parent, Lake Norman Currents, The Charlotte Observer, The Writer and more. When she’s not working on client projects, she enjoys spending time with her family and writing young adult and middle grade fiction. Visit her website at


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I, too, am from the era of the typewriter. The ability of arranging and rearranging whole parts of a piece into one spot and then into another is something I appreciate the most.

I cannot imagine revising using a typewriter. It is indeed a different (and better, when it comes to technology) world.

Judy H said...

Or better yet, in 1975-77, I was key punching for computer programing majors in order to earn extra money. I was fast and accurate. I thought the height of "I've made it" was getting to use an IBM Selectric with the balls to change the font. And I'm turning 58 this week, so not all that old.

Unknown said...

I remember spending countless hours at the library doing research for a paper, which I actually loved doing. Now, I can research anything I want whenever I want right at my desk. I love modern technology!


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