Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thunderdome: Paper versus Computer

I love writing with a pen and paper. Or pencil, even though it smudges. With that, I am not bound to any one spot when the writing bug hits. I can be in my room at my desk, as I would if I wrote via computer, or on my bed, or sitting on a chair in the backyard staring at the orange tree in my neighbor's yard, or at the town center, sitting at a bench across from the bookstore, watching the different people going in and out with small children, while old men sit as a table nearby, just talking.

With paper (loose or in a notebook) and a writing utensil of your choic, there are absolutely no limitations.

With a computer, especially for people like me who don't have laptops, they're basically bound to the places that have desktops. And perhaps even more limited, if also like me, they're particular about which computers they use.

I will use my dad's if necessary, and there are computers at the library up the street and at college, there were a handful of computer labs I could go to (as well as the computers in the newsroom, where I worked, I used them a lot, for research and articles mostly), but I've always been most comfortable with my own little desktop. It's old and kinda slow, but it does what I want it to do most of the time and I like it. It's mine and I can type up anything I care to and save it without thinking I should only save it to disk and never leave a copy on the hard drive (as I'd think with the library and computer labs, a post about my paranoia coming soon to a blog near you).

I can't take this desktop to the park or chill out at a cafe with it. Too bulky; I'd give myself a hernia or something.

Generally, this isn't too big a problem for me. I tend to take some form of paper and at least one pen with me whenever I leave the house, if wearing a jacket or bringing a shoulder bag, infinitely more than one of both. My problem arises when I start something on the computer, then have the urge to continue working on it when I'm away from the computer, or even just not in the mood to turn it on. I can take notes, but without the exact few lines on the file I don't like to jump straight into a continuation of the scene.

Here's my solution: I've taken to printing out the last two pages or so of whatever I'm currently working on. Not everyday, and usually just when I'm on a roll, but can't stand the computer any longer. If I don't feel like printing it out but feel like I might want to work on it more later, I may also just write down the last paragraph on a clean sheet of paper, so if the muse hits between then and the next time I get on the computer, I know where I left off. If I don't, then the next time that situation comes up, I just skip a line and write down the new last paragraph on that same sheet.

It's a funny little solution to projects that really get under your skin or that you're alternately working on via computer -and- longhand, but it works. I tend to do more thinking about the story and more note-taking by keeping that little one or two-line reminder. I can't use "I don't know where I left off -exactly-" as an excuse.

Because let's face it, a writer can love writing, but we're horrible when it comes to coming up with excuses to not write. (You'll have to pardon the repetitive words there.) Chores, other people...I use my need to have a social life and not give in to an utter hermit-like existence as an excuse. And it isn't a matter of not loving to write. I don't know what it is. But for this excuse: "I'm not on the computer, so I can't write," this is my solution. And maybe I'm the only one with that excuse, but there you go.

Viva la papel!

Random stuff:

375 words on a first-person backstory of Rei, my main character for Book B, abbr. title "Hounds" (because I'm tired of referring to it as book B). In my head I know where she's been and what she's done the past 8 years, in a general sense, but it doesn't hurt for me to see the words and revivist her voice. It's helping already.

10,917 words total on Book C, abbr. "SH." Haven't been working on this too much, but have been thinking about it a lot, and I'm currently working out the climactic scene in my head. I think I may have introduced a character too soon and thta's stalling me in the writing. I'm thinking about the structure and plot too much for it being a first draft.

On page 85 of "The Lie that tells a Truth." I was talking about this book with my older sister, also a writer (after I came home with it, she said she'd bought the same book a while back), and we agreed that the nice thing about the book was that reading it made you want to write. Writing exercises aside (I hate the term 'writing exercise' sounds like work, even if his suggestions for them are good), ignoring the exercises, just reading the text makes you at once want to keep reading, and yet put the book down and pick up a pen and paper. And that, I think, is why this is a successful writing book.

Will now be off to edit the second half of chapter 11, because writing group is tonight. Last week's was okay, but we never got around the writing prompt and I wish we could get through a whole chapter each week (but we spend to much time talking for that). Oh well. Anything is better than nothing.


Holly Kennedy said...

I'm impressed! I could never write without my computer. Matter of fact, if I'd been born 50 years ago and had to use a typewriter to do what I do, I'd fail miserably. So hats off to you.

Also, isn't it amazing how many stories can float around our minds on a regular basis? I have the same problem, and I often bounce from one to the other, getting little done on any of them! Argh!!

Sabrina said...

Oh yeah, I have the bouncing right now. One needs editing and I've just barely started the first draft of the other, so they're fighting for attention and I'm not getting much done beyond thinking about both.

Funny, you should mention typewriters. I have an electric one tucked under my desk. I don't use it to so much now, but I still like it. But I used to start all my stories on paper, and now it's sort of a toss-up, depending on where I am when the idea hits.

Thanks for the hats off.