I grew up in world without backspaces and spellcheck.
We quickly forget what life was like without access to computers or devices. Human nature is funny that way. It’s almost as if this is how we’ve always lived.
The thought occurred to me when I was trying to explain to my daughter how we would write essays in school. We were taught to organize our thoughts before we sat down to write an essay. In fact, before we wrote anything. We had to learn how to spell and make sure we could write coherent paragraphs that fit into the essay as a whole. We had to edit before writing. We simply didn’t have choice.
Sure, we could scratch out a word or two, if we made an error. But, scratching out whole paragraphs just wasn’t allowed. It would reflect poorly on our work. So, the whole concept of let’s just write whatever comes to our head and edit later, was unthinkable.
I realize that I still function this way, much of the time. I still have a little notebook, or even a word document where I tend to organize my thoughts before I begin to write something. In fact, one day my manager caught me drafting out a whole letter on paper. I needed to make sure my letter flowed well and the only way I could do that was with pen and paper. I don’t know what it is but, my brain still seems to function better when I’m writing longform.
It makes me wonder whether we even realize how lucky we are these days.
Funnily enough, I also went through school in the days when we hand-wrote our essays using fountain pens in exercise books, and we were always being told to write an essay outline before beginning to write. I couldn’t do it. I used to leave half a page, write my essay, then go back and do a synopsis of it as the ‘outline’. I think, perhaps, that my imagination runs in a linear fashion which means that I don’t just spurt out tangential ideas that have no place in the essay. However, if I wrote an incorrect word I would change what I was going to write in order to incorporate the word rather than cross it out. That can take you in an interesting direction.
I also have a question – do pupils nowadays really have the time write randomly and then undertake a lengthy editing process, or are the two seemingly polar ways of approaching an essay closer than we’re led to believe?
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I’d say your imagination was probably more organized than most which is why you managed to write your essays the way you didn’t. That’s exactly the point I was trying to make though. It’s the way we were taught to think. We organize our thoughts in our heads and then begin to write not jump into and see where we end up. I do like the idea of how you put your incorrect word to good use. Very creative.
I wouldn’t say pupils write randomly but, I believe they have more room for error, if you’d like. They know they have the option to edit their writing which makes them more prone to starting sentences and then hitting the backspace if they don’t like how it sounds. I hope I’m making sense.
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.