Monday, January 17, 2011

Sticking with Dead-Tree Technology

One of the things I was happy to pick up over the Christmas break was a fresh set of A5 writing notebooks. It seems a bit weird to still be writing out stories longhand in the age of word processors and other computery goodness, but I find that works best for me. I’m old enough to remember my mum typing up estimates for my dad on a fancy electronic typewriter, but not old enough to have ever used one myself.

I keep trying to kick the habit. Ink and bits of dead tree, I mean it’s so primitive. Look, there’s this lovely shiny laptop with a blank screen all waiting to be filled with words. And look at this keyboard, so much faster and more efficient at producing words than that awkward scratching.

It never works out that way. It’s that delete button. It’s far too easy to use. If you’re of a slightly perfectionist bent (which I am), the delete button is the concrete block waiting on the tracks to derail the writing process. It’s too easy to get stuck at a point in the story, writing and re-writing variations of the same sentence over and over until I completely lose the thread of where the story was supposed to be going in the first place.

I like my little writing pads. They’re the tortoises—slow and steady—of the writing process. They’re a little more portable than laptops and don’t run out of battery. I like taking one with me to lunch and getting a couple of extra pages done over the break. I like the steady accumulation of pages until a story or chapter falls out. I like how I can write any old bollocks to skip snags, because it’s only the first draft after all.

With discipline (and maybe some tape applied over the delete button), I could do most of this on a word processor. I think I like the little pads because they're a clear separation between first and second draft. It doesn't matter if the first draft was done on paper or typed in Word, I usually end up typing the whole thing again for the second draft. I find it's the best way to trim out all the needless fat from a story. Copying up from a notebook is easier than having two Word's open and the fonts at magnifying glass size.

Alas poor trees, it may be a while before I'm weaned off you yet.

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