the writing life in a modern age

We used to talk about coming to the page, but for many of us technology has changed this concept and, I’d argue, our process.

The act of pressing pen to paper, grinding it over the surface, feeling the way the tip of it grips the fibers is deliciously visceral. Both violent and loving, the marks on the page are alternately like tattoos and scars.  Intentional and unintentional.  It’s a dance between the conscious mind and those things writhing beneath the surface.  Often times, when I’m successful at turning off my internal editor, the scars produce the sweetest and most surprising movements of prose.  Granted, on the page one can still cross out narrative / dialogue / etc that seems absurd, that isn’t perfect or sits uncomfortably.

On the digital page, however, it’s infinitely easier to erase those moments, paint the scene as if the sketch never existed.  With the delete key, we can eradicate the texture of the brush strokes, and leave a glossy, improbable effort.  I do this far too often.  I write something, delete it.  Write something else.  Delete it.  Cut and paste.  There is so much temptation to edit that often it interferes with the act that needs to happen first.  Creation.

One can sit in front of a computer for an hour, fingers endlessly dashing over the keyboard and yet only have a paragraph of text to show for it.  Even though it’s a struggle, I am of the school of thought advocating “free writing”.  One comes to the practice with a general arc of where they want to go, but they release the conscious mind as much as possible.  No editing.  Just writing.  The first round is about getting the ideas out.  The beautifying can happen after the birth.

The media of pen and paper facilitates this process much more easily than does “word processing”.  So, with the computer, it becomes more of a conscious act.  For me, it is about letting go of expectations of outcomes, entering into a meditative state and accepting a flow of words rather then pressing them into a mold.


2 thoughts on “the writing life in a modern age

    • I’m pretty lazy (translation: busy?), too. And my handwriting is worse than a doctor’s or physicist. Read: I journal, write short form poetry, story outlines, character sketches, or the first 5-10 pages of a project by hand. Sometimes if I’m running into challenges on a project, I’ll break out the old notebook, helps interrupt whatever psychological angst is rolling around…

      I admire the old philosophers who wrote longhand, producing copious amounts of material and shaping generations of thought.

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