Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thinking a different way

I was out of town this past weekend, spending some time with a group of good friends that only gets together once a year. While the cottage did have dial-up, I chose to forego using that since it would have meant using someone else's computer.

That's not to say that I didn't have a laptop. I did, my wife's great little MacBook. But I also brought two of my favourite fountain pens and a journal filled with very fountain pen-friendly paper.

What made the weekend's writing interesting (You mean you went to spend a weekend in one of Canada's most chi-chi recreation areas, the Muskokas, and you spent the time working on a book? Are you nuts?), is that I bounced back and forth between modern technology and technology that's much, much older. I'd get up early (I'm an early riser), go out on one of the decks and use the computer, generally working fast on scenes I'd already doped out doing some thinking as I'd gotten ready for bed the previous evening. (I was very circumspect with the wine.)

Later on in the morning, I'd take advantage of the weather, going down to the dock, pen and journal in hand and work on another scene while I looked out at the water. These scenes weren't generally as well mapped out. After lunch, I'd get the morning's work into the computer, and either continue on with the computer for awhile, or head back down to the dock for more manual writing.

It surprised me on Monday morning, as I looked over the weekend's output, I actually produced more final copy in the journal. Now I can type pretty quickly and accurately (thank you, Mavis Beacon) and being left-handed, I write slower than average. What happened?

My best guess leads me to believe that I write more succinctly and clearly by hand. Since it takes more effort, I tend to consider what I'm trying to say a bit more and write more "tightly" out of the gate. On computer, my thoughts tend to roll out without any sort of throttle and I wind up having to work over each paragraph a lot more before I'm satisfied. I also like working by hand a bit more, too. There's a greater feeling of accomplishment, as dumb as that sounds. Being able to use a nice fountain pen makes it all the better.

Is there anyone out there who still works occasionally with pen and paper? Do you find the same thing is true for you? Has anyone written a complete manuscript by hand?


Vicki Delany said...

Not a word by hand. When I was canoeing in Killarney last week I took a notebook and pen. Didn't jot down a single word. I admire you for trying, and also for being able to write in fits and starts. I am an all or nothing writer.

Donis Casey said...

I do quite a bit of composing by hand - nothing very polished. Then I sit down at the computer and refine as I type. It seems to go much faster for me when I do it this way

Rick Blechta said...

I HATE writing in fits and starts, Vicki. It is slowly driving me nuts, but sadly, when needs must and one has to keep a day job, it's either that or not writing.

In thinking further, I also believe that going back and forth between pen and computer several times a day was a help because it was "a change of task".

This is a well-known learning method which means that by doing something different you refresh your brain. It's the mental equivalent of stretching your body after you've been sitting for a long time. I sort of stumbled on it long ago as a way to get my musical practising in by working it into my general homework/studying schedule: study for half an hour and then play for 15 or 20 minutes; repeat as needed.

I found that by the end of the day, I'd been much more successful with my studying and homework and managed to practise quite a bit, too. Of course, I'm one of those people for whom practising is a treat!

Come to think of it, I managed to get in about 4 hours of practising at the cottage, too...

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Does carrying a little notebook around count? I've found that thoughts come to me while I'm moving (biking is a good way for me to work out scenes or solve problems--weird, huh?), so I carry a little book and a pen in my fanny pack. I pull to the sides of streets and make notes. Hope people don't think I'm casing their homes.

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