Sunday, January 8, 2012

How Do I Write, Let's Count The Ways

Writing is writing, right? I was surprised to read recently that different parts of the brain are used for writing and typing. Maybe that explains why for so many years I loved the feel of pencil in my hand, why I never could type worth a darn. Some section of my brain was more developed than the other!

My first writing that I remember was on a Big Chief table with a red cover. Can anything replace the smell, the texture, and the memories of writing on a Big Chief? That somewhat yellowed paper with occasional tiny brown flecks of fiber made a rather scratchy sound as the pencil lead, usually a big fat one for little fingers, scrawled across the page, leaving those miraculous tracks called words.

When I graduated to a slender pencil, only a #2 lead would do. I hated any other lead weight. It didn’t scribble right, didn’t glide across the page correctly, didn’t feel comfortable as it moved across the page. I was so enamored with #2 weight lead that I could not compose in ink! If I had an assignment due, I had to write it in pencil for my brain to work. Then, once the inspiration and creating were finished, I transferred it to a nice clean page in ink. This is work that modern students would never do!

When I moved to typing, it was a nightmare. I could not make my fingers work well. I was adequate at best in the years when females were still judged by their wpm and steno pads! There was a lot of copying at the typewriter too because I could not think, could create at the keyboard. I had to write it out on bright notebook paper first, scribble a bit, erase a smidgen, write in the margin and then, only then, could I sit at a typewriter to “write”.

Finally, over the years I have retrained myself to compose at a keyboard. I still make a lot of mistakes and only find a portion of them for correcting. I am grateful for the speed and efficiency of computers, but I still hold a great wooden pencil in high regard! A nice ink pen with a firm feel in the hand, a medium point, and smooth black ink that races across the page is still a wonder too.

I wonder with texting, laptops, ipads and the many ways students learn to compose and do homework now, if kids will ever know the joy of a freshly sharpened wooden pencil, point honed to a piercing tip that could double as a dagger. How deprived they will be of the smell of painted wood freshly ground away to make an instrument of creation, one that captures their stories for them.

How about you, how do you compose?


Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

A workshop I took with Tom Bird required us to write on giant pads of paper as fast as we could. He maintains that there is a connection between brain and hand that can only be captured when writing by hand. There is definitely something to this.
I type fast enough now that I think I can capture this connection brain to typing fingers. I often compose with my eyes closed, so I can "see" the scene I am writing.

Bookie said...

Wow, this is interesting, Melissa! I just read the suggestion that you write blind by shutting your eyes to free yourself from self-editing. My typing is so bad I might be able to decode my story! But it is worth a try. Thanks.

Linda O'Connell said...

Claudia, You certainly took me back to first grade. Oh my Big Chief tablet, and now it would be politically incorrect.

Chatty Crone said...

Saw you on Susan's blog and my husband just retired too - I am right there with you! HAHA

irishoma said...

Hi Claudia,
Big Chief tablets ruled when I was a kid. And I loved the smell of lead pencils when it was time to go back to school.

My method for writing depends on the project. More often than not I jot ideas in a notebook. Occasionally I write a first draft in a spiral-bound then type onto a Word Document.

I do agree that there is a strong connection when physically writing in long hand. I've read the more senses involved in something, the stronger the memory and impression.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.


Lynn said...

I don't think I did much writing with a pencil (except when really young, but can't really recall that for some reason) although I have evidence of it! Ha. I love hand writing with a pen though - even now. I usually hand write before I type it on the computer. My typing skills are pretty good though, which I'm grateful for... my good ole dad thought that being a secretary was the job for women, so that's how I became efficient in typing!

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

I do all my creative writing on the keyboard, but everything else I jot down with a pen. I'm a bit of a pen junkie, actually. I love the new gel pens that don't smear, and I choose a color based on my mood! :)