It has become painfully apparent over the past 6 days that I am completely and utterly addicted to my laptop. Having to use my husband’s computer and my work computer for everything has driving me nutty. Nothing has been where I needed it or wanted it. The settings were all wrong. It took twice as long to do anything because I had to navigate through and re-enter passwords that are all set standard on my personal machine. Not to mention the fact that I had access to NONE of my files. I haven’t written all week for that reason. Had I gotten particularly desperate I’d have resorted to the old fashioned pen and paper. That, a recent post on Romancing the Blog, and my dear friend
got me to thinking about the tools of the trade so to speak. When I first started writing at the tender and idealistic age of twelve, my favorite tool was a good sharp number 2 pencil and a 3 subject notebook (one section for character notes, one for general plot ideas, one for the actual story). There are several boxes of my old work in my mother’s attic. The arrival of our first family computer in 1993 (ironically intended for my mother to work at home, but which I ultimately hijacked) saw a decided change in my preference for a computer. I am a lefty. My handwriting sucks. Plus I can type about 100 wpm. I can probably only write up to 20 legibly. But the question remains–does our tool of preference change how we approach writing?
Manuscripts aside, my immediate thought on that front deals with communications. Now I am a huge fan of email and instant messaging. They enable me to stay in close touch with friends and family who don’t live anywhere nearby. The immediacy is nice as well. There’s no waiting for the USPS to travel via air or land to pop the next communique into my mailbox. I am not such a proponent of immediacy that I’m a fan of text messaging. I am utterly opposed to any form of communication which robs words of all their letters. Real mail, or snail mail as my generation is apt to call it, is becoming a lost art. But I have to confess I love letters. Somehow it means so much more when you get a handwritten (okay this is me we’re talking about…maybe typed and signed, but at least the envelope is hand addressed!) epistle in the mailbox. Someone had to take TIME to write that. They had to spend real money to send it (and it’s going up again, but that’s another gripe). Somehow that automatically imbues a real letter with more importance. I know that when I write letters I give a great deal more thought into the words I choose and what I say than I do to the quick shoot-em-off emails I’m known for dashing off several times a day.
What about journals? I have a great love of leather bound journals and fountain pens. I love the texture of the leather, the scent of the paper, and the smooth flow of ink from the pen. Something about that combination automatically lends more gravity to the words I put on the page. Consequently I felt like those special journals ought to be for “deep thoughts” or philosophy–something other than daily diary gripes. For years I’ve picked them up and started journaling–but inevitably I drop off after some period fo time. I am much more consistent with blogging–and that I blame on the fact that I live in front of a computer almost all day at home or at work. Blogging is convenient. And I have no compunction about sitting down and dashing off a “this is what’s going on in my life” post. I simply have multiple blogs to separate out the day to day from the deep thoughts from the writing related stuff.
So this begs the question of whether the same principle applies to novels or short stories. Well, I don’t do short stories, so I can’t speak to that one. But for novels–I am undecided. To a certain extent I love being able to throw down a first draft quickly via keyboard and computer. I feel like I lose something of my own personal voice if I worry about editing myself the first time out of the gate on a piece. All the technical junk can be fixed later. Would I be more careful of my word choice if I were to do it the old fashioned way and handwrite my books? Probably. It’s not a practical way for me to work. I frequently move things around and a good word processor or program is a MUST. Paper and pen enter in at the front end. I still prefer to keep a notebook with character sketches, plot notes, timelines, and the like. What about you, fellow writers? Weigh in on the debate: is the pen mightier than the keyboard?