Sunday, January 8, 2012
How Do I Write, Let's Count The Ways
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?