Sunday, July 01, 2007

If I only had a quill...

Lately (more precisely since the blue screen of death followed by the multi-colored hue of resurrection), I've taken to doing the majority of my writing longhand - a somewhat forgotten pleasure. Somehow the pages haven't made it from notebook to the computer, but they are there. In fact, I am only one away from filling up my old writing book. This is satisfying in a palpable way that hitting "save" could never be.

It probably dates me that I feel this tension between the electronic and the manual. When I got my first computer in grad school (late bloomer!), I could not write on it at all. Somehow ideas flowed better into pen than keyboard. At this point I can produce either way if I must, however typing on keyboard is a very different experience from writing. A computer does have the advantage of facilitating speed when ideas are flowing freely; what it lacks is the kinesthetic element. With a pen and paper, the whole body becomes engaged in the act of writing. For me, this creates an immediacy that is very different from sitting at a computer, which feels somehow more distant, more academic, less personal. I suppose that immediacy is why an old school notebook and pen are still my favorite tools for creative writing and for working out the finer points of ideas before releasing them into the wild. It is not a neat process.

My little notebook is filled with arrows, scribbling, scratch outs, and (sometimes cryptic) notes quickly jotted down while out in the world during non-writing time. I carry it with me pretty much everywhere. You never know when you'll need to write something down. I am no longer sure at what age it was that I started carrying a notebook. As far as I can remember, it has always seemed natural do to so. It fills time in moments where there is nothing too do and is the perfect tool for a collector such as myself.

I am not a big collector of items. There is no book of stamps tucked away in my dresser drawer and you won't find Precious Moments figurines lining my mantle (if you ever do, you will know that I've lost my mind and whatever good taste God gave me). What I do collect are words and ideas. My notebook is filled with notes, quotes, snippets of poetry, interesting turns of phrase. Sometimes thumbing through the pages later, I have no idea what I meant at the time or why it seemed important. My almost full notebook includes (among other things) the following:

- The barely legible scrawl: "Count guy who never died" (I think this might have been my way of referring to Count St. Germain. He is just the sort of figure who would intrigue me)

- A list of writing prompts gleened from various books on writing and sometimes just my own head

- The quote "Testosterone is the great equalizer; it turns all men into morons," which was scribbled down during a particularly resonant moment in a Buffy episode. (Since I'm more prone to assigning idiocy on an individual basis than a gender specific one, if I had to guess, I would say this was jotted down around the time I began to feel ambivalent about the Swiss - or one in particular)

- Notes on an unfinished piece about living between cultures that was started after hearing the story of an Aramaic Turk who, after twenty-five years of living in Germany, made a failed attemped returning to his native village in Turkey with his wife and kids who were German citizens and had never been out of Germany.

- A poem no one but me will ever read. It is perhaps a little melodramatic, containing the words "flowering moment of grief taking root in a garden that will grow into a thousand hallelujah's spreading like weeds"

- An outraged note stating: "Contents of desktop inevitably reveal character??? I don't have a desk, does that mean I have no character???" (I'm not sure what about it got me excited enough to use the repeated question mark technique)

Basically, my notebook contains a lot of crap. But in between the crap, there are some worthwhile ideas too. I guess it's a lot like my head that way. Besides, even fertilizer has its place in growing a flower. As long as the flower gets there, who cares if its seed was planted in a pot or in the ground?


Jen said...

I find the computer/pen divide so interesting! Ever since I got my laptop (a while ago now) I have done the bulk of my composing on the computer -- but you're right, there are just some things that go better with a pen. (although I have to have a fast-writing pen with easy flowing ink or I get all irritated.)

Martina said...

A good pen is a must. There's nothing worse than trying to hurridly scribble things down with a pen that skips or feels off! I've gotten better at composing on the computer, but still find, especially until I get a flow going, that I like to start on paper. I do that a lot - start my writing in a notebook, then switch to the computer once the ideas are flowing.