Wednesday, June 25, 2014

To Tech or Not To Tech?

After dinner one night a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about dependence on technology. My phone, iPad and Kindle-wielding daughter accused me of being unable to cope without it. If I'm honest, I must admit that there's some validity to her accusation. I do love my devices, and as a writer, I spend an inordinate amount of time on my computer. But, I reasoned, if I want to write, all I really need is a pen and paper.

Her response? Something pretty close to a derisive snort. "When's the last time you did that?"

In all honesty, it had been a while. But there are times when I choose pen and paper over their electronic grandchildren.

In a pinch, any pen and paper will do -- any port in a storm, as it were -- to keep the words from blowing away and getting lost at sea. But when I truly select pen and paper as my medium, not just any pen (or any paper) will do. My favorite pen is a snazzy new version of the tried and true Sharpie, and when I’m being especially particular, I will select not just a particular pen but a particular color (I have quite a collection) as well. 

While I’m less choosy about the paper I use, it must “go with” the pen. It’s a little like selecting a wine to go with dinner -- a matter of each item complementing the other. I have a lined newsprint notepad that goes well with ball point pens, but not as well with my favorite Sharpie. I keep a notebook in the driver’s side pocket of the car door that is bound at the top like a spiral steno pad, with perforated pages that tear off neatly. That partners well with my Sharpies or with a pen, or even a pencil, provided the point is just right. If I’m at home, I may pull out a sheet of unlined paper that’s been printed on one side, but if I’m lucky enough to be writing on the beach, I need a notebook. 

Similarly, the size of the paper needs to go with the size of the idea. When I’m brainstorming, I prefer a full-size (or larger) sheet of paper, preferably unlined, and I’m likely to pull out a felt-tip pen with a broad tip as well. Smaller, journal-sized notebooks work for crafting blogs and shorter pieces, but if I have a choice, only full-size notebooks or the aforementioned printer paper will do for sketching out chapters or pieces that are likely to run more than one page. List-making? Anything will do. 

Personal preference aside, there really is a method to this paper and pen madness. Lines and small pages create a sense of constraint, something that’s unwelcome when I’m brainstorming; bigger ideas simply need bigger pages that can be subdivided, or multiple pages that can be spread out across a work space. Having several disconnected pages at my disposal allows me to jot disparate ideas onto different pages as the thoughts come to me, helping me to organize them as I drop them from my mind onto the page. 

Still, some days it works, and some days it doesn't. A few days after our conversation, I opted to make good on my declaration. I had the right notebook, and an almost-right pen, but my thoughts were scattered and corralling them on paper was a challenge. Even as I wrote, I suspected I had multiple blogs braided together rather than a single thread uniting the post. I tried flipping to a new page in my favorite top-bound notebook, but as much as I hated to admit it, unbraiding the ideas would have been much simpler with a cut and paste option.

And eventually, that’s just what I did. I typed the best of the drafts into my computer, then skimmed the rest of the pages to see if I had anything else worth keeping. That day, I’d have done much better with my laptop, but I still stand by my original assertion.

In order to write, all I really need is a pen and paper.

Word count Wednesday: 1698 :-)

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