I think most writers like to imagine themselves a particular way.
Well, maybe not THAT bad, but it is true. Maybe they view themselves as working at an antique desk, or wearing a jacket with leather patches, or something equally pretentious. Me, my conceit has always been my laptop. I’ve written at length about it (and its predecessors) elsewhere. It was part of my image.
But things have changed. It started innocently enough, in a ball of righteous indignation. The bookstore I worked at banned computer use for everyone, which ticked me off to no end. I did ALL my writing on laptop. I hadn’t written a story on paper since high school. It’s only going to get put on computer later anyway, right? And I have terrible handwriting!
But I grit my teeth an bought a large hardcover notebook. Time passed, I didn’t like it, but I figured I’d stick with it until I finished the project I was working on at the time. Later, the restriction was lifted and I drifted back to laptop writing. Then I drifted back to paper writing. Then back to laptop.
Now I realize I haven’t taken my laptop with me to write in months, not since I set it up as part of my computer desk. I filled up my last notebook a while ago, one that was too big for my pocket, and found a Moleskine that was perfect for my needs. It’s the size of a medium paperback in surface area, but a third the thickness, and fits perfectly in my vest pocket.
And after my dad left me his old iPod Touch, the last reason I had for taking my laptop with me everywhere (portable internet access and email) has been stripped away.
So it looks like I have a new image, high-tech and low-tech. I write my first drafts in an old-fashioned Moleskine, and keep connected with my iPod Touch.
At least it cuts down on weight. And besides, Neil Gaiman does all his first drafts on paper. And Neil Gaiman is cool.
But it turns out there is another reason my switch to handwritten drafts is productive:
It’s not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.
Studies suggest there’s real value in learning and maintaining this ancient skill, even as we increasingly communicate electronically via keyboards big and small. Indeed, technology often gets blamed for handwriting’s demise. But in an interesting twist, new software for touch-screen devices, such as the iPad, is starting to reinvigorate the practice.
So of course, maybe these two technologies will merge, in which I use a book-sized tablet to write first drafts on, who knows? But for now I like the idea of carrying paper and pen around with me wherever I go.