Sunday, April 4, 2010

Writing It Old School

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

What would happen if I had to write my books the old-fashioned way? I am assuming that this isn’t a time-space continuum issue and computers still exist, but I am writing without it because…I have fired my computer. Lord knows there are plenty of days when I think I have cause. There are lots of times I know we need a little time away from each other. So maybe we should have a time out, a little alone time. It wouldn’t be so bad, would it?

So here I am imagining writing a novel without my computer. I do have some current insight into this very issue. I’ve been working on this class based on Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. As part of the program to maximize creative potential, I am supposed to write three pages a day. There is no assigned topic. There is no full sentence mandate. The pages are even off limits to third party readers. Sounds easy, right? Did I mention it is supposed to be long hand? LONG HAND. I can barely hold a pen for the time it takes me to get through my three nonsense journal pages. When did I start with the death grip thing? Does anyone have a good homeopathic remedy for charley horses in the hands and forearms? Did you know you need your forearms for long hand writing? I didn’t. And I don’t want to know any more.

Maybe I needn’t be so extreme. I could go with a manual typewriter. Very eco-conscious. That’s positively chic. What could possibly happen? Nothing at any kind of pace. I am elderly enough to remember John Boy Walton with his late at night typewriting clickety clack. And the finger muscles required to get the ‘e’ to go all the way down. Sticking letters and white out. Oh, the counting of the lines from the bottom of the paper to make sure you had enough room for footnotes. The agony without the ecstasy.

Yes, a typewriter would be a step up from the Marquis de Sade penmanship issues of my breakthrough course work. If those are my options, I take the typewriter every day of the week and twice on Sunday. So, I’m typing. I live in an upstairs apartment. Is typing after ten o’clock a violation of “quiet hours?” Do I need ear plugs to meet minimum OSHA standards as a business employing loud equipment? Does Office Depot still make erasable typewriter paper?

Maybe a manual typewriter isn’t the real alternative, after all. What if I use an electric typewriter? Well, my speed would improve slightly and I’d have that lovely go back corrector ball thing. The decibel level would drop so I might be able to hear my dog howling to get my attention. I’m a decent speller (7th grade state champion) so spell-check would be missed but not to the point that it seemed I was no longer writing in English. Yes, an electric typewriter would be an improvement but I’d have to unlearn some computer age habits. I edit as I go. This is mostly due to the fact that while Mavis Beacon was teaching typing, I was not learning it. I type 75 words a minute. Eleven if you stop counting after my fifth typing error. I might make fewer mistakes on an electric typewriter than I do on my current writing love, my mini computer if for no other reason than the human finger is smaller than the old-school keys while the mini requires precision along the lines of a SCUD missile to hit the miniature keys in just the right spot to keep from typing three letters at a time. Then again, those bigger keys required the hand flexibility of Liberace to reach the special characters. I suppose if I’m going old school on a typewriter, I can dispense with the more modern *^&)%&%)* cursing technique. I’d really miss that. I couldn’t write non-sequentially any more either. That would take some brain adjustment. I never had much success finishing projects where I was forced to march step from page one through to the end.

Uh-oh. I just had a terrifying thought. No more cut and paste. I’ve really grown to adore cut and paste. That would lead to a lot more retyping. Forget everything I said about an electric typewriter and the mathematical probability that I could finish a project in this lifetime. Stealing cut and paste from me puts paid to that notion. And you would have to steal it. I’m not giving it up without a fight.
What about the other repercussions if I had to write on a typewriter? Think of all those poor out-of-work mice. They’d have to go back to making dresses for Cinderella and following strange men playing lutes out of town. The environmental lobby would go wild. There’d be picketing and t-shirts and 60 Minute interviews about my thoughtless discard of unsuspecting, innocent rodents. We couldn’t have that.

I’d better stick with the computer. Unlike the typewriter, it comes with a brain and a good heart. It’s willing to save me from myself. It tries to make me appear timely and literate. It’s my friend. I could never fire a friend.

Thanks for reading.



Sophie Littlefield said...

I'd be completely lost without cut and paste....i recently had to rewrite a book 4 times, and the final product bore only a passing resemblance to the first draft. without cut and paste i think it would have been a total rewrite - at least I was able to keep the "cornerstones" so to speak...

Gabi said...

Find and replace are also really helpful. Try changing the name of a character by hand. Yikes. Happy Easter, Sophie.

helena said...

Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

Best Attorney

Shane Gericke said...

Four rewrites, Sophie? Oh, that hurts to even think about. Thank God for cut and paste.

Shane Gericke said...

I just loves me some find and replace. One change and a blah character name comes alive. (Or, occasionally, I can screw up a whole bunch of passages at the same time!) Loooooove it, though.