Writing and the art of Longhand

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You know what really keeps me from being as prolific as I’d like to be – the computer.

No, really.

I own a Dell Inspiron 8100, circa 2001. It’s warm on the lap, it’s kinda bulky, and it’s heavy. The battery’s been dead for practically ever so I can never be without an outlet. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a pretty thing, but she’s slow. For what it would cost for me to upgrade, I could get a brand new one, but that option isn’t even on the table right now.

She takes a while to boot up, maybe 30 seconds to a full minute. Then I have to fish my jumpdrive out of my bag plug it in and then wait more tens of seconds for the comp to recognize the card, wait, start Word, wait, surf to the drive, wait, open the file, wait, wait, wait.

It can be practically five minutes from boot up to writing, and by then I’ve forgotten what I wanted to write about.

Or I can pull out my Moleskine Reporter, or any number of blank books I’ve whored away.

I have many, many blank books and they are all too pretty to write in – covers in soft suede-esque, art-prints, anime characters, chickens, etc…. The ones that have already been written in, I designated to specific topics, like the one I have for learning Kanji, and the one that’s just for story ideas that no (clearly) longer interest me. One subject, one book.

See, after they’ve been written in they’re tainted, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. I might need them again one day. Like the three notebooks with the same story idea, just with different beginnings. Crack? Yes, please.

I’m trying to get past that and for a while I was writing when I would with whatever was handy, but that presented it’s own problem. I had a system for a while that was 3×5 notecards, carted around in an index file. When I had an idea, I’d pull out a card, jot it down and back in the box it goes (yeah, right – like I put stuff away). It’s fantastic for outlining a book, and it was how I was taught to outline a term paper, but not so much for actually writing a book. Too many cards than can easily get out of order. I can’t tell you how often I find index cards under the couch with lines of dialogue or card scenes jammed hastily into stack of papers I was about to throw away.

Then I saw this post by Neil Gaiman, and it set me to thinking. Granted I’m not nearly as linear-minded as one would think writing a novel would take, and my writing tends to jump around a lot at first before I catch a rhythm, but the beauty of longhand is that I can turn off my self-editor. When I write longhand, I don’t concern myself with the squiggly red lines of mis-spelled words, or how a sentence looks on the screen. I just write and fill pages with words scrawled out in Pilot G2 .007mm black ink. Sometimes I write neatly, marveling at the way I change my a’s and i’s and other times it’s a race to see how fast my hand can keep up with my brain, making the words uneven and large. My hand always loses, by the way.

I can save the editing for when I’ve forced myself to sit down, boot up the Dell and transcribe it all, which is really the only con of the exercise. It’s a little daunting to look at a notebook filled with words and expect to turn those scrawls into digital text. However, it’s exactly how I wrote “I Do This Because I Love You” and “The Suicide Bar”, so really, I’m pissing and moaning pretending someone cares.

Though I’ve been doing it more and more over the past few weeks, especially now with meet up with RJ in MN next month, I miss writing. I miss the art of writing. I miss curling up on the couch and having the ideas just pour into ink. I’m forgetting the little things I love about this, not just the stories themselves, but the actual act. It’s time to become friendly with Mr. Pen again.

These things are also on my mind:I’m just finishing Four and Twenty Blackbirds, by Cherie Priest, and I’m kicking myself for jamming it into my overnight bag back in February and forgetting about it until now. It really is a fantastic story. I have The Witches by Roald Dahl on Audio as well as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, and I should be finishing up my own little black duck sampler for eBook release sometime in May.

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Just this fox. I'm a writer of horror and dark fantasy. I totally don't brag about it. The latter statement is an utter lie.
  • John Donald Carlucci
    April 23, 2007 - 7:56 pm

    “See, after they’ve been written in they’re tainted, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them.”

    THANK YOU! Every thinks I’m nuts (like that is the reason) because I hate using yellow tablets anyone else has used. The juice is gone.


  • ebony
    April 24, 2007 - 8:42 am

    It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who buys books for writing only for them to be deemed too pretty to write in; or that you can’t use a book that already been written in.

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