I’ve often reflected on what kind of writer I would have been had I been born in another era. And I’ve come to one conclusion: a terrible one.
I’m too entrenched in the digital world. I type faster than I could ever write by hand. I can reword and restructure sentences in seconds on my laptop that I couldn’t do on a typewriter. And with the internet research is a breeze along with using the thesaurus.
Typically when I’m writing, if I get to a part that needs some research, some care in description, or some vital detail, I’ll just use parentheses and come back to it later to fill in. For example, “Paul ran toward the (cathedral). (Description of cathedral that matches mood).” Then I get on with the action. In this case, I haven’t decided what kind of cathedral or if it will even be a cathedral, just that it’s a house of worship. And that serves the plot for the moment. My first edits are always going back through and finding those parentheses and filling them in.
The internet is particularly useful for such things. I can search for cathedrals to get inspired. I can search a map of the city the story takes place in and find a real one that suits my needs. I can then look at pictures, use Google street view, even browse YouTube for tour guide videos. I can visit a setting halfway around the world without ever leaving my couch.
I can visit museums online to research clothing in the Edwardian era. Or search the social security database for the most popular names in the years my characters were born to give them an authentic feel. For example, modern day: Kayla, 1940: Dorothy. Or I can watch MIT lectures on astrology. The internet has made the world a wonderfully small place, and for those with access and an ability to read, it presents an almost limitless learning opportunity.
I probably still would have written had I been born in another era; writing is too wired into my DNA. But I’m happy to have been born in this era and be a digital writer. It makes writing so much easier and interesting for me.