21st Century

My head is spinning a bit, and I had to share it with you. I think I’ve mentioned to all of you before that I am deeply, powerfully, and sincerely technologically challenged. I write on a 1946 manual typewriter that seems modern to me. I paid $20.00 for it a million years ago, at the beginning of my career, in a second hand typewriter store. And I love it. I can’t write on anything else, and wouldn’t try. I could never even write on an electric typewriter that takes off at the merest touch. And I can’t write on a computer. It just doesn’t work for me (except for email). And I’m happy this way, unchallenged, unconfused, and entirely unmodern. It also semi-hides the fact that I am completely confused by technology. And the thought that a computer would EAT 3 chapters of a book, or all of it, is horrifying to me. So I’m definitely sticking to my ancient typewriter, still going strong (best investment I ever made, 116 books later), which very politely only eats what I feed it. My typewriter’s name is Ollie (an Olympia, a German hand made table top manual typewriter, which weighs as much as I do. It is an incredibly fine machine. And I’m happy to say it’s older than I am).

My children have tried to get me to I Chat, want me to get a Blackberry, insist that I can use a computer….but the reality is that it took me 5 years to learn to use a fax machine (and I still cant work the one I have in Paris, which hates me), another 5 years to learn to email. I can’t use a digital camera. I use an 8 year old cell phone that is falling apart in my hand and I won’t give up. Let’s just say I have some SERIOUS resistance to modern technology, either due to inability, terror, or just plain stubbornness. But in any case, since learning email, I have dug my heels in and learned NO new technologies….well, actually I learned to send text messages a few years ago, and that seems useful too. Although I am by no means in the leagues of my children, who carry on a full conversation with me face to face, while their thumbs are flying over the keyboard of their Blackberrys and they have a whole other conversation with a friend by text. I am an excellent multi-tasker, but not when technology is involved. (Like any mother, I can make a sandwich, listen to a kid, talk on the phone at the same time, and manage 3 conversations at once, while telling a husband where his gray socks are and what time our Christmas party is……but technology is not involved in any of those tasks).

My assistants have gently tried to introduce me to new concepts in technology, and I won’t hear of it, and my children really pound on me on the same subject, but they’re easy to resist. I know them all well, and don’t even have to pretend to be reasonable, or modern, with them. My ex husband gave me a fancy new computer, which I still don’t know how to work. But in each case, I know them well enough to blow them off without embarrassment, and stubbornly stick to Ollie, email, and the occasional text. Kids today are a whole different breed. At 4 and 5, they know how to use computers and it’s second nature to them. And my assistants would never have gotten hired anywhere, if they were as incompetent as I on a computer. (The good news is that I also don’t know how to reach EBay, or any other site where I can shop on line. Good news for my budget!! I suspect I would get into serious trouble if I could!!)

Several months ago, I got a new assistant in Paris, who does everything imaginable on a computer, his social life, his work life, Facebook, a million things for me. And he noticed tell tale signs of my antique notions of communication early on. (Another of my many quirks is that I have a nervous breakdown if anyone touches my computer, even my kids. Since I have virtually no idea how to use it, I figure someone else will do something that I can’t fix, manage, or undo, so even breathing in its direction is taboo, so as not to interfere with my emails, which I assume appear by some kind of voodoo or magic on the screen, and want nothing to interfere with). The new assistant entered my world oblivious to my eccentricities, bad habits, and total ignorance of technology (well, I think he suspected that), and began to make improvements, subtly, quietly, without arguing with me, discussing it, challenging me, or warning me that he would. He just quietly went about his business, while I did what I do: write books. He got me a new cell phone (which I couldn’t use, and nearly hyperventilated trying to use it, so he backed down and had my old one fixed. Whew!!! Fantastic, it is now almost as good as it was 8 years ago. Museums are begging me to donate it, and I won’t!! He picked his battles carefully, and backed down immediately on my beloved cell phone). He commented that I needed a stereo system in the Paris apartment (I was using a small unit, like most 10 year olds would carry to the beach—-now they all have IPods, which I also don’t know how to use). I have no idea how to work the new stereo, but he does, and it sure is nice. I like it, as long as I don’t have to figure it out, which I probably couldn’t do. He quietly installed Skype on my computer, without discussing it with me, so now I’ll be able to talk to and see my kids (and no one else, since I don’t want to have to comb my hair for my morning emails!!). He installed an additional email address. And noticed a Christmas gift from 2 years ago sitting near my desk still in Christmas paper. I had not yet unwrapped it; it was a digital camera and printer that I also had no idea how to use. It is now sitting next to my desk ready to use, and I can enjoy the gift that has baffled me for 2 years. It is amazing how these small improvements improve my world, and would have long ago. Everyone else is stunned that the new assistant has gotten away with getting me to make changes that no one else could convince me to try til now, AND touch my computer without my putting a contract out on him. Part of it is that he didn’t discuss it with me; he just did it very quietly (without lecturing me about what a klutz I am), knowing that it would be helpful to me, and not giving me time or the opportunity to say No. It’s also embarrassing to admit to someone new how stubborn and antiquated one is, and hostile to the modern world. So he got me by being subtle, and by my own embarrassment to resist openly. I’m not embarrassed to say a resounding NO to my kids or employees who know me well, it’s harder to do with someone who assumes you are a reasonable, modern person—-and really embarrassing to admit that you’re not. So I have put a toe in the waters of some technological improvements. I have not set fire to the world, I am still writing on my ancient computer, I have not yet made it to EBay or Google (my researcher does that), and I don’t think I will ever be a computer whiz, and will probably always be a computer Klutz. But I am impressed that I’ve made some minor improvements, and that I actually let someone do it. Whether by embarrassment, trust, or because I simply wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing, he has actually improved my world, and dragged me a few inches further into the 2lst century, a MAJOR accomplishment—-he may win the Nobel Prize for that one.

To top it off, my beloved editor has discovered a manual typewriter that looks like mine (please don’t tell Ollie, I have been faithful to him for 116 books!!), but that is actually hooked to a computer. Apparently, I can type as usual, and it will roll paper pages out of the typewriter as usual, AND make a disk of what I’m typing, on a computer, hooked to the typewriter. A double header. I can remain as old fashioned as I want, while hooked up to modern technology too. My publisher will be thrilled. And I am going to try that combination set up soon. I’ve ordered the machine. Wow!!!

Modern wonder, I can not only text and email now, but I can also Skype, use a digital camera, and enjoy my new stereo system, and all because someone just gently and quietly took care of it for me, and somehow slipped under the radar, and got past my early warning system that alerts me to anyone who goes near my computer. The answer from me to all technology questions is always no. He didn’t ask, and probably would have been stunned to know that it is a big deal to me. So I’ve been embarrassed into putting a toe into the waters of the 21st century. It shows me that I can do it….I think a Blackberry will be next….maybe another new new email address……and who knows what other surprises are in store!!!!!!! I can’t say it was easy, and I hyperventilate a little while trying to deal with one of the new technologies I’ve learned (like Skype). It may seem simple to you, but it sure doesn’t to me. And who knows, maybe by my 200th book, on my l00th birthday, I’ll be writing on a computer…..well, maybe not….but any day now, I’ll be shopping on line, checking things out on Google, or dating on Match.Com Anything is possible…..it shows what a gentle introduction can do, and an open mind…….mostly, I was just too embarrassed to stamp my feet as usual and shoo the new assistant away from my computer, and admit what a klutz I am. It’s a brave new world!!! 21st century, here I am!!!!!!!!!

Love, Danielle

Leave a Comment

If you would like to make a comment, please fill out the form below.

Name (required)

Email (required)


13 Comments so far
  1. Kimberly January 20, 2011 4:35 pm

    Good for you! I just can not imagine how you still type all your novels on a typewriter though! It would be so much easier on a computer; you could just cut and paste sections any time you want to reorganize things. I can see where you’d be afraid you might lose pages though, but you could always print each page as you go along. Well, keep up the good work! 🙂

  2. Susie January 20, 2011 8:47 pm

    Your new assistant is very smart. Sometimes the best most diplomatic way to get someone to try something new is to introduce it gently, don’t make a big deal about it, and let them see the postives. Enjoy all your neat stuff!!

  3. Charlene Oakley January 20, 2011 9:10 pm

    Dear Danielle,
    The more you do it the easier it gets. It becomes automatic and you don’t even have to think about it. Ordering anything online is so much easier than going shopping, which I hate. No walking the Mall or finding a parking space, or dealing with clerks who could care less if you are there or not. Just a credit card and you are all set. Try it; you’ll like. I have not done any Christmas shopping outside of my own home in years!
    Love ya Danielle.

  4. Maria January 22, 2011 6:07 pm

    I can understand the apprehension to technology. I slowly perform the same “quiet service” for one of my bosses. He has now become much more tech literate but still has his days of being overwhelmed. I guess at times it is hard for some of us to think that it is all a big deal, but then I have grown up with it all. Of course I am no where as literate as my son will be (I am 40 and he is 7) 🙂 Good luck with it all and whatever you do, keep churning out the books! I just finished reading three 🙂
    Take care,

  5. Lorraine January 23, 2011 11:14 am

    I can totally relate to this article, as it took
    me a while to try computers and such. However, the world went on for years and years and years without computers and modern technology, and people have to remember that!
    It always strikes me as somewhat funny when
    ‘computers are down’ and it causes such frustration for so many. What did people do before that?? As far as all the texting, etc.,
    well even that has its place mostly with young
    people, but I think it is extremely rude when
    you are with somebody and they are talking to you but texting someone else at the same time.
    I guess as you said, it’s a modern version of
    multi tasking, but I sort of see it as spreading
    oneself too thin at times. A show that totally
    fascinates me is “Mad Men” about advertising executives in the l960s……..my goodness, how
    did people survive with rotary phones, no texting, no computers and all the communication
    that brings, phone booths, busy signals……..
    I’m sure you catch my drift. Don’t get me wrong, I love my computer and cyber world and all the avenues it opens up, but it is not always a sure thing and I think in many cases,
    it takes away from plain old common sense!
    Love, Lorraine

  6. P.J. January 24, 2011 8:18 am

    It takes some dexterity and talent to type on Olympias, especially erasing text and replacing typewriter ribbons. The last time I tried to change the ribbon I got so much ink on my hands, then my face and clothes that I gave up.
    So you have some mechanical talent-electric typewriters were awful, so you’re not a klutz-anyway, kudos to your new assistant.

  7. zeebah April 2, 2011 8:21 am

    Dear Danielle,
    I love reading your books since ages but for the last three weeks they have been my best ‘medicine’. I have got a few ordered by a cousin to keep me busy during my convalescence. I can’t mobilise much and going through pains. But having your book in my hand makes me forget that I am sick. Even my pain was less felt. Thanks a lot for writing such nice books. Keep it up.
    ‘Fanly’ yours,

  8. Marie April 13, 2011 1:16 pm

    Hi Danielle,
    Sorry this is an older post, but I so sympathize with you. I, too, am a technology resistante. I’m not even forty yet, and I have a hard time taking it all in. Ok, I have a computer, I use the internet daily and texting on a cell phone is a huge plus. And I will be the first to admit it, all of these have made my life a hundredfold easier. Especially my digital piano. And my digital camera… However, as great all these little gadgets are, the hair in the back of my neck sticks up and inwardly I cringe everytime I hear about a new techno-toy that humanity just can’t do without, or when someone chides me about not having an i-pod this or a smart phone that… I never even get their names right -let alone understand just what it is they do better than the one that came out the week before. I guess I am stuck in retro-world… but I love it there. Some of us just don’t ‘get’ it as others do. Although when we do (and I suspect this goes for many) we feel so giddy we might just throw a party – but we keep cool and act like there was nothing to it! Maybe it’s just the terminology that throws us off, or the fact that we’ve had traumatizing experiences with some of it. Yes, it is possible for your computer to eat 3 chapters or as it happened to me, all of a sudden sort 100 pages worth of paragraphs in alphabetical order. But at least they did not all disappear completely. Even ovens are complicated. My mother ‘self-cleaned’ a salmon because she got distracted and pressed a wrong button on her oven while my niece was talking to her. It took 7 hours before we could get the door of that oven opened again.
    The fact is, technology is here to stay. We might as well get in with the program, as long as we can do it à la carte! 😉 Congrats to your assistant – I think you’ll be able to learn a lot with him. Cheers!!

  9. Normita March 5, 2012 4:02 pm

    Just finished your book on Nicky, what a tearjercker and what a fabulous son. The world lost a great person.
    Welcome to the tech world! I’m taking a writing class and picked you as my feature writer – I feel as though I know you from all your books. I remember well those manual typewriters, still have one in the closet.
    Normita from San Ramon, CA
    (by San Francisco)

  10. Marilyn Sowards July 30, 2012 12:04 pm

    Hello Danielle,

    I think you’re wonderful! I’ve loved your books from day one and have been a faithful reader of many of them. I was delighted to see you on “The View” this morning. I always love it when I can catch an interview with you on tv. You are so down-to-earth and honest and I love that about you! I raised six children, so I’m amazed that you not only raised nine children, but continued your career at the same time. I was fascinated today that you were still using the original typewriter that you started on. I completely understand your wanting to use what is comfortable for you while you are creating, and you don’t want the mechanics of learning something new to stand in your way of “being you”! Thank you for the inspiration you are to so many women.

  11. ทัวร์ยุโรป June 4, 2014 3:23 am

    It’s going to be ending of mine day, but before finish I am reading this fantastic paragraph to increase my experience.

  12. emily goodall December 11, 2015 12:06 pm

    Stop! Run for your life! Gently instruct your assistant to cease and desist. I believe that your instincts are absolutely correct. I’ve been a computer geek for years and do everything technology. I have two smartphones, I write databases and websites and know how to use every social media site out there. What I have noticed is that the technology itself becomes a kind of focus and there is a sort of distraction that takes away from the creative process. There is something fundamentally wrong with staring into a light for hours on end while trying to create something. My recommendation when people ask me if they should get a computer is an emphatic absolutely NOT! Oops . . . hold it, I’ve just made a mistake trying to move the stupid little cursor thing on my smartphone around to a little problem here . . . . Now, what was it I was talking about?

  13. Heather August 17, 2023 10:09 am

    As a new writer I wonder how your editors feel when editing your books? I love your work and have read many of your books. I only wish my writing career will one day be like yours
    Kindest regards
    Heather Butler