Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Old Technology

If you’ve hung around Type M for awhile, you might know that I am a big fan of fountain pens. I have eight of them in my “collection”. The reason collection is in quotes is that I know people who have hundreds of them. I’m not really a collector, I’m a user. Several of my pens have had their nibs customized, i.e. ground, so they are optimized for the rather strange way I hold a writing implement. You see, I’m left-handed and we southpaws have difficulties writing from left to write, so a nib tip that’s been angled just the right way is a real benefit.

Okay, that’s the introduction to this post. What follows is the meat and potatoes.

Again, if you read my weekly scribblings, you know I’m trying to finish my 10th novel, Roses for a Diva. It’s now two weeks overdue, and still not quite ready for prime time. Writing this one has been a real struggle. Part of the issue is, as I progress as a writer, I’m more finicky about what I put down in the first rush of creation. I used to just vomit it all out, then use multiple revision passes to sort out the crap from what I actually want to say. No more. Now, I like to be more thoughtful and precise in what I put down, and and the result is that I work more slowly. Couple that with the need to make money – since who gets a working wage from any publisher these days? – and you have a good recipe for delays. I have never missed a publishing deadline until this current novel and I’m deeply embarrassed by having to do something so amateur. As far as I’m concerned, deadlines are carved in stone.

My current fractured writing schedule has made it even more difficult to get any words down, and I obviously needed to reexamine how I’m working to maximize what I’m able to accomplish in the time I am able to put aside for finishing the novel. Since our house is rather small and my wife teaches flute around 30 hours a week, I also have that distraction to deal with. The only way to deal with it is to get out of the house.

Since working more slowly and carefully is now part of my writing regime, what better way to proceed than to grab a journal, a favourite fountain pen (currently it’s a Pelikan Souverän M800 with its Richard Binder custom-ground italic nib and filled with green ink for any other fountain pen aficionados out there) and get the hell out of Dodge for a few hours. With nice weather I can go out into our backyard, a nearby park, or a library when it’s rotten. The distractions are fewer and the results are better.

Yes, I could go out with a ball point pen or even a pencil, but I prefer the sensory experience of writing using my bit of old technology. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the feel of a nib floating along on excellent paper, but I’m finding that the prose of my first-draft sections of the novel written this way are far better than work done directly into the computer. Also, one day last week, my pen ran out of ink unexpectedly, so I borrowed a ball point to continue (I was in a park), and wouldn’t you know it, things in Novel-land started falling apart immediately. Maybe it was the distraction of having to borrow a pen from someone I had never met (an odd thing to do) or maybe the muse left with the last of my lovely green ink. The result was I threw out nearly everything I wrote with that cheap ball point.

Computers are a lovely thing, as is much new technology, but for millennia, writers used paper and some sort of writing implement. I’m not saying we should go back to clay tablets and a stylus or even quill and ink, but maybe, just maybe, using a little older technology here and there can sharpen our brains by slowing us down, helping to make us more thoughtful. The end result – in my case, at least – can be better prose and superior storytelling.

How about you? Do you ever write longhand anymore? Use a typewriter? (I wish I’d never thrown mine out.) Or does new technology (computers or voice-to-text transcription) work best for you? Am I completely full of shit with the way I view this? Does active use of old technology even belong in our modern world?

As for the artistic side of using a fountain pen, this video is a wonderful example of what you can do with a pen fitted with a very flexible nib and some practice…


Rick Blechta said...

I was also very negligent when I didn't mention this beautiful Pelikan fountain pen was a gift from my lovely (and generous) wife. I never would have bought something this nice – and also relatively impractical are far as necessities go – for myself.

synge lucia said...

We had been additionally really negligent after i did not point out this particular stunning Pelikan water feature pencil had been a present through my personal beautiful (as well as nice) spouse. We in no way might have purchased some thing this particular good – as well as fairly not practical tend to be much because essentials proceed – with regard to personally.

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