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To see the handwriting vanishing from the wall

May 10, 2012

There’s a track on the Bob and Doug McKenzie album, The Great White North, in which Bob McKenzie is furious because he’s getting a parking ticket. You see, he and his brother are at a donut shop and he has to park on the street because, to quote, “the guy’s got ten tables and three (parking) spots!” What’s a hoser to do?

A similar circumstance occurs at Barnes and Noble’s cafe. I don’t know how many tables they have. I’m a writer and I can’t count that high with my shoes on. But there are exactly two electrical outlets. (There are four, if you count the spot where the cash wrap used to be.) On a Sunday afternoon, there are typically ten to fifteen laptops looking for electricity.

Funny, it works fine for my computer.

Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. Laptops weren’t the preferred mode of computing.

In fact, I did most of my writing on paper for the longest time. For one thing, I could take a notebook–a paper notebook–with me anywhere. My computer never moved from its perch on my desk at home. For another, hand writing my first draft slowed me down a little bit–made me think. I couldn’t fly through a sentence in fifteen seconds because I can’t write that quickly. And with a spiral-bound notebook, I never had to discipline myself not to screw around on Facebook when I ought to be writing.

I held onto that approach to writing until approximately twelve seconds after I got my first laptop. Now, my handwriting stinks and I can’t remember the last time I hand-wrote something that wasn’t a meeting note for work, a shopping list, or my signature. Technology rolls over things like an army of locusts, leaving the landscape forever transformed and–depending on your viewpoint, ravaged until it’s no longer recognizable.

Luddite and proud of it!

Or, you just recognize that it’s not really not efficient to do it the old way. After all, no one cranks their phone any more. And the ice guy doesn’t come every few days so the milk stays cold. And I don’t turn on the radio two minutes ahead of time so the tubes warm up.

Dude, your phone looks like a wooden Muppet.

What about you? Do you writing your drafts by hand? If not, are you even a little nostalgic about it?

  1. May 10, 2012 7:11 am

    When I first started attending the workshop I posted about last week, I still wrote my first drafts by hand. So everything I wrote at the workshop, I’d have to take home and type up on my computer. The act of typing it up got me back in the story, and before long, I would add to it right on the computer. I essentially taught myself to write with the computer instead of pen and paper, and eventually, I began bringing my laptop to the workshop. I still use pen and paper when my laptop isn’t handy (on the beach, or when I get a good idea while driving and need to jot some notes at a stoplight), but I love how easy the computer makes the whole process. The only thing about writing by hand I get nostalgic about is old-fashioned letters. There’s still nothing like them. When I receive a handwritten letter, or even a thank you note, I can’t help but have good feelings about the sender.

    • Chris Hamilton permalink
      May 10, 2012 8:36 pm

      Julie, I used to use paper and pen when the laptop wasn’t handy. Now I use my Nook. If electricity ever ended, I wouldn’t be able to write for squat.

  2. May 10, 2012 7:17 am

    I often write by hand. There’s something about how I connect the ideas to the mark on the paper with a pencil. I have my simple pencil sharpener handy because I also like a sharp point. I hear the rasp of the lead against the paper and know I am making progress. It took a long time to adjust to composing on a computer screen. There was something rather sterile about that as a writing process. The forming of the letters when writing longhand pull the story along. Cursive, I don’t print, either. Is this a confession of being old school? I also make side margin notes. It’s true, I write in books… and when my sister visits she wants the books she has given me back so she can read them again with my notes. There’s always a fistful of sharp pencils nearby…. for other moods of writing, I have a favorite fountain pen and various colors of ink. Roller ball pens go too fast, I don’;t seem to have control.

  3. Chris Hamilton permalink
    May 10, 2012 8:35 pm

    Lisa, it’s a little ironic (and a little different), but the one group used expect to eat e-books up as if they were Lays potato chips–college students–hates them. Why? They can’t put notes in the margins. So you aren’t alone.

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