Killer Year–The Class of 2007

easier than cuneiform, faster than a slab and chisel
October 11, 2007, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Marc Lecard

Everyone has their own approach to the physical act of writing. Some like to write in notebooks or on legal pads, scrawling down their works in soft pencil.  Moleskine notebooks are popular fetishes.  Others prefer manual typewriters for that Front Page kick, or an IBM Selectric, to reproduce the thrill of writing your first novel on company time as a temp office worker back in the Eighties.

And often these methods are necessary for the writer to do his or her best work, sometimes to get anything done at all. The pencil or typewriter connects to the old habitual experience of writing, the physical fact produces the creative one.

I used to be a pencil and notebook guy.  I thought I could never write any other way, that without a marbled composition book and a good supply of nicely sharpened yellow no. 2 Ticonderoga  pencils I would be helpless, unable to write a word.

I got over that.

I had to. My handwriting is hard to read at best; under pressure it deteriorates into random indecipherable scribble. Even I can’t read it. How many great stories lie hidden under those meaningless scratches in old notebooks? I’ll never know.

I write on a computer now, and have for years. And like it. In fact I really think word processors helped me become a better writer.
What I deeply love about word processing programs is that when you delete something, it is gone. Not lurking under flakes of whiteout, or ghosted back by erasure and haunting every word you try to write over it, but gone.

And saving those old versions allows you to become an utterly ruthless editor. Because, hey, you can always put it back if you miss it too much. But meanwhile every word is tested, and if it doesn’t contribute, out it goes.

And the ease of moving words around encourages chance-taking, I
think, structural experiments, unusual juxtapositions.
But writers are cranky, idiosyncratic types, and not everyone writes the same way. Writing happens the way it happens, not the way anyone else thinks it should happen. With access to the whole range of modern word processing technology, some still prefer pens, pencils, crayons, lipstick, pieces of charcoal.
So does anyone depend on a particular tool, technology or method to get the writing going?  Notebook fetish? Type of pencil?  Color of ink?  Of paper? A certain smell?  Time of day? What?

Come on, you can tell me.


3 Comments so far
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I honestly think if it wasn’t for computers, I wouldn’t be writing. My typing is horrible and frequently led, in the old days, to loud cursing, whiteout applied with a paintbrush, and eventually to the throwing of typewriters from high places.

All that said, I occasionally use a notebook to compose, just to get me out of the rut where I go back and write and rewrite and re-rewrite. In longhand, you make a mistake, you just go,”fuck it, I’ll fix it later,” and move on.

Comment by J.D. Rhoades

Although I do write on the computer I always carry my notebook with me. And is HAS to be plain paper. Not lined, not rules, not graph but plain paper.
When asked about this I usually say it’s because I don’t want my creativity to be constrained. But mostly it’s because my writing has a tendency to wander away from the line and all over the paper.

Comment by John

My bed does it for me! I lay for hours at night, plotting in my head until my characters scream to be put down on paper, then I transplant them into my computer. I don’t work very well with notebooks, they usually end up under my bed covered in dustbunnies, abandoned and forgotten, mixed in with magazines and old photo albums. One day I’ll sort them out…

Comment by Akasha Savage

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