From today's New York Times -- a mediatation on computers and writing:
I gave up in the spring of 2002. Eighteen years of Microsoft operating systems was enough. I had been through every version of DOS and nearly every version of Windows up to that point. If I knew as much about my tractor as I did about the fine points those systems, I would be able to rebuild its hydraulics from scratch. It made no difference. As Windows grew more and more complicated (or kludgier and kludgier) - and as Microsoft tried to make it seem simpler and friendlier to novices - it also got uglier and uglier. So it seemed to me. I moved my last Windows desktop to the basement, where I hope the mold is eating its hard-drive. I bought an iBook and have lived happily ever after.
It was just the right time. The iBook came with OS X 10.1. That's what I use. I never glanced at OS 9. I wanted nothing to do with the past - even Apple's past. I now no longer have to worry about crashes or screen freezes, regular occurrences in my Microsoft days. This has nothing to do with writing, I know, but it has everything to do with allowing me to keep my composure. The real reason for switching platforms, though, was to recover some of the pleasure of using a computer, which had almost vanished for me. The stability of my 12" iBook (and its successors, a 12" PowerBook and a 20" iMac) was important and so was ease of use and a sense of inventiveness. But what has won me over is the esthetics of the Apple cosmos. It's a fine-grained universe with smooth, clean edges. The world within the screen appears to recognize, and obey, the laws of gravity. Solids appear solid, not pixilated and porous. My Apple seemed surprisingly willing to leave me alone to do my work. It never nagged me. It never panicked. It had made a clean break with the past and it let me do so too.
I still write in Microsoft Word, I know. I'm happy with Word X for Mac, which hasn't been updated in a couple of years, and I will not upgrade to Office 2004. Even the name makes me nervous. Every now and then I hit just the wrong combination of keys, and the Office Assistant pops up. I loathe the Office Assistant - even the Mac version, which is far less annoying than the Windows one. Animated assistance is the last thing I want. It's as useless as a grammar checker. I suspect that after 21 years I've nearly come to the end of the Word road. I suppose I'll miss it when I find the right replacement. And yet I haven't missed Windows - or MS-DOS - yet. I don't think I ever will.
This, too, has nothing to do with writing. And yet everything has something to do with writing. That's the nature of the job.
This all describes my own state of mind when I switched from Windows to Mac Os X this past summer. It finally got to the point where I simply couldn't stand the clunkiness of the MS operating system any longer, and it became an impediment, rather than an aid, to my work.
He's got some good stuff on the nature of writing itself. It makes me feel pretty good about my own difficulties in "getting it done" when it comes to writing. But the difference is that journalists have the threat of the deadline hanging over their heads constantly. For academics, the deadlines are there, but they're often not so deadly, and so fiddling around instead of getting things done can be a real danger for a scholarly writer. Still if Verlyn Klinkenborg can do it, I'm sure I can too.