In Praise of Pen and Paper
By Pat Cunningham
By Pat Cunningham
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.
REMEMBER: BIG IMPORTANT NEWS!!!
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 leaves...at least, until winter sets in.