Draft versus Digital

Davecat likes to ask the kinds of questions I spend a few days mulling before I answer. He wouldn’t ask a question (on his blog no less) if he just wanted a pat answer. That’s why God made text messaging after all.

More than anything in my home, I have notebooks. I have files and sheaves of paper, I have scribbles, I have pens and I probably need an intervention.

Yes I carry a laptop and feel like I’m slipping into a state of catatonic schizophrenia when I’m away from my phone, when it comes to writing, nothing makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something the way a reporter’s notebook (or whatever’s handy) and a Pilot G2-07 pen. Chapter 7 of CDI is written on a sheet of 8.5×11 sheet of paper folded into quarters and written front to back. Remind me to show you some time short stories and early snippets of Nine (better known in its fancy clothes as Isle of Shadows) I have written on cut or torn flaps of cardboard boxes nicked from the backroom in my cashier days as Westborn Mkt.

There’s a freedom to writing by hand that I don’t have on a comp. I’m not taunted by the red and green squiggly lines or intimidated by the lack of keystroke sounds. A blank page in a word processing program looks like a threat, but ruled lines in a notebook feel like a seductive come-on. I’m a sucker for the art of flirtation.

Notebooks don’t care if I don’t finish a word completely, or if I write my sentences in a non-linear fashion. I can mark my mood by a pen stroke or the condiment smear on the page. This notebook page (with the middle bits of Never) smells like Whiskey – I bumped my glass in the Club Lounge at the Ritz Carlton in Arizona. Ah- a Port stain, NaNoWriMo write-in at Villa Z’s in Detroit, 2007 writing CDI (when it was called Buttons) and I got a little giggly. My notebooks have something my laptops don’t have and that’s tangible, tactile history.

I don’t edit on screen. I’ve never been able to do it well. I always miss something – a comma, a glaring misspelling, a few sentences I just knew I was going to remember to add. Save, print, redline, re-type. Wash, rinse, repeat. This means that I have files of drafts, sometimes numbered, lettered, color-coded.

I’m an analog writer in a digital world. I have a foot in both and I’m comfortable. (When you write, you can let your imagination run wild. (typing) “Temperance was doing the laundry” . . .*)

Writers write with the tools available, and I honestly believe that when the mood strikes us, we will use, pen paper, blood, bark – whatever it takes to jot that idea down. There will always be sketches on napkins and scraps of cardboard. There is a group of us that have a sick fascination for notebooks – Moleskine, Piccadilly, Mead, lined, blank, quadrille. Each one of mine is either being saved for a specific purpose (it will be revealed to me in time) or is waiting for me to finish something (the time will be revealed to me).

I will leave a legacy that looks like a fire hazard in a hoarder’s back room.

You, my friend, will leave that same kind of legacy only stacked in pixels and bytes. While the bulk of your work is on the screen, your evolution remains in the work that survives the delete button. You have left posting on message boards, comments on blogs, e-mails in boxes. Your trail will be as exciting to discover as any trunk of unpublished manuscripts in an attic.

My point, and I do have one, is if we’d really wanted our mistakes and slips of the finger to be read and studied, we’d include them as notes in the backs of our novels or sell them as part of Ultimate Collector’s Editions. I don’t throw anything away, but really it’s not my intent to have my mental waste studied by grad students and fan boys who feel they need to connect with me on a spiritual level.

It’s interesting. I deliberately put off reading veach’s response because I didn’t want it to influence what I was trying to say, and yet I think we managed to say it just the same. (though, you have to admit – he sounds way smarter than I could).

(can you tell I’m kinda prepping for CONvergence?)

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* Marge Simpson, The Simpsons Diatribe of a Mad Housewife, Season 15 Episode 323

One thought on “Draft versus Digital

  1. Speaking as the current dabbler in the house…

    I need to go back to writing on paper. I would write in notebooks, loose leaf paper, or steno pads; with the favorite pen flavor of the moment. Then transcribe it somehow – originally it was a typewriter, then a Brother word processor, then later the computer.

    The computer is distracting. I miss my old word processor, clunky suitcase that it was. I realized recently that my lack of writing coincides with when I stopped handwriting. I need to make time and do it. I miss it.