est thing about this time of year? New school supplies! Blank paper and full pens…ah…
I was in an office supply store over the weekend and, after seeing all the sparkly new supplies, had to curb the strong desire to go hunt for a new pen. Why? 1) We have lots of free hotel and bank pens floating around, and 2) I don’t write with pens any more…despite my compulsion to have at least two pens in my purse at all times.
Sure, I’ll jot down ideas on the train or edit a hard copy with a pen, but I don’t write full-fledged sentences, paragraphs or scenes in pen anymore. I can’t. My brain freezes, deciding it would rather just hold on to that idea and wait for the ease of typing. On a computer, I can type, save, tweak, undo and repeat as often as I like until it’s just right. Doing that with a pen just gets messy…and, often, illegible.
It wasn’t always like this, of course. When I was just a wee writer, I had to write on paper. We had a computer (black screen and flashing green cursor), but I couldn’t use it to compose. The blinking cursor was too mesmerizing, the blank screen, too daunting…the computer was like a black hole, sucking away all my creative ideas before I could grab onto them.
After scribbling down pages upon pages in notebooks, I would transfer them to the computer as a backup. I could edit on screen, but I always felt stunted when I needed to write a new scene.
At that time, I remember reading many author interviews in which the authors argued that writing with a pen was a naturally creative act, that their thoughts were able to flow from their brain, through their arm and onto the page. Computers, on the other hand, put up unnecessary walls and constricted the flow of creativity.
Even though I had trouble composing onscreen, I didn’t quite buy their arguments. It sounded more curmudgeonly: This is the way I know how to do it, so I’m not going to change.
I didn’t want to be curmudgeonly, especially at 16, but there was a certain cache, perhaps only in my mind, to only writing on paper. It was like wearing all black, smoking cigarettes, and drinking coffee…that’s just what real writers did.
Somewhere around college that all changed for me. It probably had to do with that fact that writing twenty page papers and then having to retype them on a deadline sucked.
Of course, the unintended consequence of learning to type those pages directly on the computer is that I now have trouble composing on paper. But I’m not the only one. The image of writer has changed. We wear fun colors, are smokeless, and type on laptops…yet, we’re still relegated to the coffee shop. But that’s a thought for another day.
So, what about you? Pen and paper or keyboard and glowing screen?