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Rediscovering the Pen

October 14, 2008

There’s been a lot of tech talk on the blog lately. Hard drives, backups, restores, laptops… Nothing wrong with that. But it’s rare that I’m the one to find myself on the outside of the tech bubble, looking in.

Recently, I’ve been trending toward the passé…the outdated…even the antiquated—at least in regards to writing. I have put away my laptop and picked up the pen and paper.

You see, the most creative periods of my life have all been at the nib of a real pen. So I decided to experiment and see if I could attract my absent muse with well-worn, time-honored methods.

For me this isn’t the simplest of tasks. When I write creatively, I forgo the disposable Bics and mundane spiral notebooks. Instead, I tend toward leather-bound journals with thick, textured paper, and good pens with free flowing ink. If it didn’t slow me down so much I’d use a glass pen and dip it in an inkwell. So I found myself searching through forgotten drawers, and dusty garage-banished boxes, looking for my manual tools.

I know that for many writers, these affections can put a heavy burden on the subconscious, but for me there is a primal energy—a palpable sense of creation—in seeing my words immediately appear on paper in a way that can’t simply be backspaced into oblivion. Also, from a more practical manner I can write much faster than I can type. And as the Delete key is absent, I inner-editor tends to back off for a while.

I’m still not sure if the experiment will be a success in the long term, but just last week I had my turn at bat as part of a collaborative writing project. I wrote my whole chapter—about 1,200 words—in one sitting. And when I typed it in so that I could submit it, I didn’t need to change a single word.

It’s been a long time since that’s happened.

  1. October 14, 2008 12:56 am

    I have done this in the past. With Moleskines being pretty accessible and affordable now, and having a favourite pen that’s like a a fake fountain pen. I can get pretty close.

    I think I ought to give it a go before NaNo starts to treat my muse to something nostalgic, even if when I got into writing, it was the computer right away.

  2. jessicameats permalink
    October 14, 2008 12:11 pm

    I’ll occasionally write little bits of things with pencil (always preferred pencil to pen) and paper, but usually only because I can’t carry my computer around everywhere and a notebook fits into my handbag.

    However, fairly recently, I wrote most of a collection of short stories using old-fashioned means. Some stories just seem to flow better with a pencil.

    However, when it comes to novels, I’ll use a computer every time. It makes it so much easier when a character starts being more important than I intended and demands I go back to an earlier point and add in some back-story for them.

  3. October 14, 2008 2:15 pm

    I used to write by hand all the time. I had a special notebook for poetry, one for short stories, one for scripts, one for novels. I would handwrite everything and then type it up after I had hit the first draft at least once with a red pen. This was back when I had an old portable, manual typewriter (I didn’t have my first computer yet).

    Now I default to using the laptop and I do most of my work directly there. However, if I find myself blocked, I’ll pull out the old notebooks or a new one for the particular genre if the old one is filled, and I’ll set pen to paper (non-erasable, blue or black). Usually, this gets me through the block because it changes my perspective and changes my seating position and/or location.

    Assuming that this worked, later that day or the next day I will type it in and continue on my merry way on the computer, setting the notebooks aside for the next time.

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