How are people writing these days? By computer? By hand? A bit of both? I bet there are some adventurous types out there banging away on a typewriter just for the heck of it.
I like a bit of both. I’m supposedly a Millennial, but computers weren’t important to my writing process until I was heading into junior high. I’m part of that nebulous, transitional generation that almost – but not quite – grew up with modern home technology. We had a computer in my house, but that’s because my dad worked for Digital (which became Compaq, which became Hewelett-Packard). We didn’t get a family computer until later. I drafted school reports on yellow paper with blue lines and then carefully transcribed each word onto clean white paper with blue lines. White-out was a necessity. And I’m not talking about the new white-out tape. This was the bottled stuff that got everywhere.
That analog childhood stayed with me. Though I type out all my writing now, I keep notebooks handy at all times. Sometimes that blank screen just stays blank. It’s too easy to hit the delete key or get distracted by the red underlines that point out every typo. According to the online typing test I once had to take, I can average 66 words per minute. These nimble fingers can keep up with the speed of my thoughts and narration, but I can’t sustain the momentum without getting distracted. It’s too easy to look back; to pause; to go in and edit even if it’s a first draft.
That’s when I pull out my notebook. The stories in the notebook are not whole. The scenes are disjointed. There are bits and snippets of things that I had to get down on paper when they wouldn’t come to me on screen. I don’t know how many words I can write per minute, but I write fast and messy and it flows. Sometimes the story feels more organic that way. It’s far less organized and I can only focus on what I’m jotting down each second. Each word is present with me because it’s being formed out of my brain and my hand.
I like how visceral the inked words are on a piece of paper. I come away with splotches on the side of my hand because I’m left-handed and my skin runs over the words before they’ve had time to dry. I still have that crazy bump on my middle finger where the pencil likes to sit.
I don’t think I’ll ever let go of the paper and pencil part of writing. Maybe it’s because I’m an artsy-craftsy person, or maybe it’s because I grew up jotting stories onto whatever scraps of paper I could find nearby. Whatever the case, it is an important part of my personal process, and I love a good old fashioned Composition Book.