Monday, October 20, 2008

In Praise of Pen and Paper

In Praise of Pen and Paper

By Pat Cunningham

Don’t get me wrong. I love computers. Rewrites and edits are a breeze now, and whole novels can be emailed to publishers without requiring a trip to the post office.
However …
Call me old school, but I haven’t dropped the pen and paper habit just yet. I still get a thrill of anticipation when I open a notebook and see all those blank, lined pages. I have half a dozen pens in my purse at any given time. I look forward to August, when school supplies go on sale. My idea of an ideal writing session is to sit in bed in my jammies with a cup of tea and the radio on and fill up all those lines with black ink. The public school system went to a lot of time and trouble to teach me penmanship; I might as well put it to good use.
I like to do my first drafts longhand. Scribble it all down in bed, on the sofa, on the deck when it’s nice out, during commercials on TV, or during the show if it’s lousy. The second draft is when I type it into the computer. From there all work is done on screen. If I need to add a scene or chapter, I tend to rough it out on paper first. I can and have written right on the computer (or on the typewriter, back in the Dark Ages), but once it’s printed out it seems so … permanent. Longhand is me talking to myself, working out all the kinks and clunkers before I commit to the final version.
There are pros and cons to both methods. You don’t want to know how many notebooks I’ve got piled up in the closet, filled with stalled stories, snippets of inspiration, ideas I never got back to and books that went nowhere. Sometimes the pen can’t keep up with my brain; that’s when a keyboard comes in handy. Unfortunately, you can’t chew on the end of a keyboard (at least not easily) while you’re waiting for the right words to come, or doodle in the margins of a computer screen. Pens tend to run out of ink just when you’re on a hot streak, and I can’t always remember which notebook holds the chapters I want to get back to, or which room of the house I left it in. On the other hand, I’ve never had a pen go corrupt on me in the middle of a project, and notebooks don’t crash. If nothing else, longhand ensures me a backup version in case technology fails. As long as I can read my own handwriting.
I suppose at some point I’ll just get a laptop and stop slaughtering trees. Until then, it’s off to the dollar store for a packet of pens and a five-subject spiral. I’ve got a book to thrash out.


I received my first online issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies...and only wish I could get over to read the two featured stories.
Pat’s short story the ‘SNAKE IN THE GLASS’ will be featured in the #7 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, NEW YEAR’S DAY edition.
How wintery cool is that for all those hibernating serpents? And kewl for all the humans who want to curl up with a great story this winter.

Personal Note ~ yeah, I got the notebooks full, too. And there is definitely something magical about penning longhand. However, all my trees must be casting their spell over me...only use the computer...they whisper over and over with the fluttering dance of their least, until winter sets in.


Savanna Kougar said...

Hey, Pat, good blog!

Trish Milburn said...

Isn't it a cool feeling to go into an office supply store? All that possibility. :) I don't write much my longhand because I can write so much faster on the computer, but occasionally when I get tired of sitting at the computer, I'll take a notebook and go out to lunch and write a few pages longhand while eating.

Evonne Wareham said...

Glad there is someone else still out there who writes long hand. All my stuff is done first with pen and ink - I used to buy notebooks. Now I collect paper with print on one side and write on the back. I have a whole cupboard waiting.

Savanna Kougar said...

Trish, so true, about going into an office supply store. I have to limit myself.
I wish I had more time to write longhand.

Evonne, when I was working at a day job, I would gather up all the paper ads, etc., and do the same thing, use it write on.

Marie-Claude said...

Hi Pat,
A girl to my own heart. I only write longhand. It takes me 4 regular size spiral notebooks to finish a manuscript. And then...ooooh the pain to have to type it all....wish there was another way....LOl

Anonymous said...

Yay, I'm not alone! I'm between jobs at the moment, but when I was working I'd sit in the car at lunch and write longhand in a notebook. Sometimes if the system was slow I'd scribble on the back of a piece of scrap paper during work hours (no, that's not why the job ended).

There are downsides to the longhand writing. My American Title entry was still longhand in a notebook when they told me I was a finalist ... and they wanted to see the whole ms. ... that's two days of hectic typing I don't ever want to relive. From now on nothing gets sent out until I have a typed version.

I get most of my supplies at K-Mart and Dollar General. Office supply stores are nice to dream in, but too expensive at the moment.

Hey Sav, thanks for the post assist, and great graphic!


Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Pat, I know what you mean. When I worked at Park College, now University, after graduation -- whenever I'd finished whatever I needed to get done, I had this wonderful, at the time, IBM typewriter to use, with the boss's permission. And I would also scribble things done at whatever job I had, later on.