Written in the WordStars

“I actually like it, it does everything I want a word processing program to do and it doesn’t do anything else. I don’t want any help. I hate some of these modern systems where you type a lower case letter and it becomes a capital letter. I don’t want a capital. If I wanted a capital, I would have typed a capital. I know how to work the shift key.”

I was pleased to note that George R. R. Martin (whose mammoth tomes I’ve just begun to read) is fervent about something other than wearing that cap. He is one of a dying breed – the DOS user! More particularly, he uses WordStar to crank out his lengthy bestsellers. Not for him the (now Clippy-free) white screens of Microsoft Word or its free replacements. He eschews the fancy writer-friendly face of Scrivener. Instead, he spends hours facing this:

Mmm, chunky.
I said ChKWord, goddamnit.

Nice.   Of course, this isn’t the first time he’s mentioned this method of working. This LJ update provides more information on his working process, most notably this:

“Yes, I have been using a computer for twenty years now, but while I cruise this interwebby thing with a PC and Windows, I still do all my writing on an old DOS machine running WordStar 4.0, the Duesenberg of word processing software (very old, but unsurpassed).”

It’s similar to my first experiences of word processing: Lotus Manuscript and (more often than not) PFS First Choice, which also included a couple of other utilities. It’s interesting that someone as obviously productive as Martin uses something so basic. It’s a glorified typewriter, with no built-in distractions. The problem with writing is undoubtedly self-discipline: if you don’t have any (or are unused to exercising what you do have), writing can easily be sidelined by the internet’s myriad distractions. Cruising Wikipedia under the guise of research? Checking email? Just telling Facebook you’re about to do some writing and then honest-to-God you’ll do some? I’m guilty of them all. But maybe going back to the 80-character-wide screen and the complete lack of anything apart from text editing tools is the way forward? I note there’s a rebooted version of WordStar in development, known as WordTsar. I suspect there might be something in this distraction-free caper, and it’d be good to give it a go, in conjunction with – gasp – unplugging the goddamn Internet.

In case you need a bit of distraction before you do that, though, here’s the Game of Thrones theme tune in eight-bit style.

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