It make sense that musicians attach great importance to how finely made or tuned their instruments are; that painters obsess about softness of their brushes. These preoccupations appear rational, even necessary, since their artistic output depends directly on the quality of their artistic tools. But writers? Really?
It is hard to deny that Mrs. Dalloway or A Hundred Years of Solitude would be identical if they were put down on paper by pencil, pen, quill, typewriter, or were dictated to a secretary who wrote it down in shorthand. Yet the fascination remains, often translated to romanticization of writing implements of prior eras. Today some writers still write longhand, or use typewriters, despite the omnipresent word-processors. This seemingly time-consuming regression is telling. The appeal could be of a physical kind. The further back in history one gets, the more embodied the activity of writing becomes. It grounds, physically, the metaphysical output. It embodies, anchors, the weight of the words. But that weight comes at a price.
While the idea of etching words into clay tablets appears romantic, revising the text on the tablets would be quite annoying. Nostalgia for the embodied physical labour of writing might be quickly cured with the convenience of the ‘delete’ button. And so we can afford to romanticize the gritty, messy, physical act of writing of the past eras, before returning to the tidy comfort of our labor-light word-processors.