Lately I seem to be reverting more and more to analog behavior. Gone is the sound of Windows loading while coffee brews early in the a.m. Instead, crisp air, birdsong and the sound of pen on paper accompanies my morning caffeine.
The writing callous on my middle finger is in full working order. My addiction to paper, pens and pencils feels not only justified but necessary. Office supply stores aren’t my only bane – just this week I bought two banana paper notebooks at Target. How could I not? Banana paper is treeless, sustainable, and has a slightly rough texture that’s a joy to put pen to. Then there was the thick quad pad from the corner market, because there’s just something about writing on graph paper. Especially really white paper with really blue lines. Perhaps the grid taps into the uber-left brain?
And the Mead recycled notebook from the drug store (also acquired this week) has an olive green cover in textured squares and a thick cardboard back that makes it easy to write in anywhere. As for the Cambridge, burnt-orange composition book with green lines that also made its way into my basket, it’s size and colors evoke a nonfiction project I’m working on.
Each current writing project has a separate notebook. So does each potential project. Something about each notebook usually reminds me of something to do with the project it contains, be it color, shape, light happy design, luscious velvet or purple metallic cover. Inside they are half-filled with random thoughts, clusters of brainstorming, lists, whole scenes, character interviews, bits of dialog, questions to answer, research contacts, ideas to follow up on, and large chunks of free writing.
There could be several reasons for my recent reversion to the old-school methods.
One is that my I-Phone allows me to check – and delete – email from anywhere. Still techie, of course, but much more limited. Now I only respond to email once or twice a day unless something urgent comes up, and even then I can do it from the wee device, albeit in terser than usual language. This has saved me an amazing amount of time as well as the angst that comes from dealing with my crappy Internet connection on an ongoing basis. It also cuts down on online surfing. Now when I come to the computer, it’s to accomplish something in particular. Sometimes that IS surfing, but it’s intentional and usually timed.
Another reason is that I’m trying to pay more attention to the here and now, to the smell of the roses, if you will. Writing by hand gives me the feeling, real or not, of being more connected to my creative process. It’s slower. There is no backspace button. I find myself being more careful about what I’m saying the first time, not in an editorial way, but because I have the time to think more during the actual act of writing. Then when I input the draft into the computer, it’s an instant edit pass.
I’m also simply writing more lately. It’s an autumn thing and happens every year. That means fitting some of that writing in around other activities, sometimes in bits and pieces, ten or even five minutes at a time. I need something even more portable than a laptop.
Neo-Luddite tendencies aside, there’s real satisfaction in the sound and feel of a fountain pen’s nib on the page. Oooh: fountain pen. Doesn’t that sound la-de-da, all tweedy and writerly! Except I use Pilot disposable fountain pens, which aren’t la-de-da at all. I just like how they vibrate slightly against the paper, how the ink lays down in no-nonsense thick lines, the scratching noise they make, and the fact that I can toss them in the garbage when they’re spent. I buy them packs at a time in black, blue, purple and red.
I know lots of people write by hand, especially first draft. Why do you do it? If you’re a tried-and-true keyboard addict, do you ever go to paper when you get stuck, or during outlining or other parts of the writing process?