Monday, July 20, 2015

Rambling: The Pencil Speaks

(A few weeks ago, I had a pencil. I had paper. I applied the one to the other. The following appeared.)

Now and then I think that I'd like to be able to write on paper. ("How quaint!") And I do, as I am now, and my hand starts to cramp about two sentences in, as it is now.

But lately I've been planning The Farm, not really a farm but a roughly five thousand square foot vegetable garden divided into 120 4' by 6' blocks (the difference between that and the five thousand feet is paths and rounding error) that I plan and plan and plan, drawing those 120 blocks in graph paper and noting and erasing crops.

Um. Anyway. That's the sort of task that I would normally do in a drawing program, or a list program, but doing it on paper seems to be...different. In a hard-to-describe but nevertheless good way. And I wondered if writing on paper ("How quaint!") might also be different-in-a-good-way.

One thing that I already see as different is the fact that I felt the need to offer context for The Farm. My inability to link to something that explains it, to link to it here and now, seems to drive me to explain. And that's good, because I've been thinking that blog writing has the flaw of not requiring me to make my writing contain its own context.

However, my hand still hurts.

You know those computerized writing analysis thingies, that analyze your writing's grade level or try to guess whether the writer is male or female, that sort of thing? It would be interesting to compare my on-paper writing ("How...") with writing composed on the computer. Of course, I'd have to transcribe the paper writing into the computer, probably restraining the urge to edit it in the process.

Hand: Ow.

There's also the fact that my handwriting is simply dreadful. I think that I will be able to read this in a week, but I'm not sure.

I'm writing this in pencil, on the theory that I want to be able to erase. But I notice that I'm not erasing. I'm making few corrections, and those are being done with cross-outs, not erasures. This is a large change from my computer writing, where I backspace and correct constantly--usually because of typos, but the ease of correction also results in a lot of word and phrase changes.

Now, I'm writing nonfiction here. What I really want to write is fiction. So I suppose that part of my hope it that paper writing will somehow make the fiction writing easier. I have no idea how or why that would work, but a change always has some sort of effect, and those effects could always be good.

I find, just in these almost-two pages (ow) so far, that I am pausing to clarify phrases that I would normally charge right through on the computer. I don't know why.

However, I also find myself thinking of Willow on Buffy saying, "It's not magic, it's science. You can tell because it's so damn slow." This quaint writing is slow.

I don't actually know if that quote is accurate, because, interestingly, I didn't look it up, despite having Google right here on my phone. I think that's also related to the paper writing, but I'm not sure why.

If I'm going to make a habit of this, I think I'm going to need a clipboard. I'm sitting at a window table in the lobby of the Crater Lake hotel, and while the view is lovely, I'd rather be outside on the rocking chairs, but to do that I'd need a harder surface than this squishy notebook.

I also notice that with the paper writing I feel conspicuous in a vaguely pleasant way, as if I belong in the scene, while when I write in public on a laptop or tablet I feel conspicuous in an unpleasant way. A reporter's notebook would also be logical, but it seems that I like the larger page. All those itty bitty pages tend to have me flipping back to see what I said last, while on a big page, I don't flip back at all, which is vaguely strange, since surely the first paragraph on a new page would require the same flipping?

Interesting. I notice that as I go along, my paragraphs are getting longer. Why is that?

Except for that one, of course. And this one.

Will I, I wonder, edit this on paper? Should I allow that, or is the experiment about my first drafts?

With the farm plan, I've noticed that I make only so many changes, and then I redraw the whole thing. The same for lists of things to do. I doubt that I'll rewrite entire narratives, but of course if I didn't have a computer, I'd have to, right? I'd presumably write or type on a typewriter, scribble corrections, rewrite with the corrections incorporated, repeat. Is that experiment worth trying?

Maybe. But not today.

(Short paragraph again.)

It's possible that I'm also writing at greater length, though it's hard to tell until I see how long this is on a screen. On the computer, I tend to declare "That is all." as soon as I encounter an empty brain, while on it that the slower pace makes me more tolerant of temporary emptiness, or is it that the slow process of writing leaves my brain with spare horsepower to think ahead of the current sentence?

It is a different process. In that last sentence, I had thought ahead to the end of the sentence by the time I got to the "or" of "or is it." But (but? and?) the sentence got rewritten many times in my head before it ended. But never rewritten "backwards"--the words ahead adjusted themselves to the words already written.

That reduction in flexibility ought to be bad, but perhaps it's good. Perhaps the greatest creativity doesn't come from leaving all your options open all the time.

For (further) example, if I were writing this on the computer, I would realize that the discussion of the last two paragraphs depends on the understanding that I am a very fast typist (>110 WPM last time I checked) so a sentence travels from brain to work so fast that that rewrite doesn't happen. I do that all the time--realize that I haven't totally prepared the ground for my point, and I prepare it a little more, and a little more, by rearranging and adding to what I've already written. On paper? Not going to happen. Preparation is in theory good, but maybe in practice it's a little too studied, too tidy?

I'm experiencing brain blankness now, after four and a half pages. Can I tolerate it? Perhaps. (And the back of my brain notices that I didn't start a new paragraph here when normally I would. Why?) I should break away and attempt fiction. Perhaps that--breaking away--will be part of paper writing. After all, this is a typing session away from being "done", so perhaps the "That is all." pressure is reduced there, too--I can't have the satisfaction of "done" so I'm no driven toward it.

I am feeling an odd craving--perhaps I should say oddly strong craving--to put on headphones and listen to music while handwriting. Ah, yes, that is the term. Better than "writing on paper" or "quaint writing" and for some reason I resist the obvious "writing by hand." Handwriting. I ignore the fact that it's usually a noun. know what I mean, yes?

Blankness. But surprisingly my hand doesn't hurt. I also observe, for what it's worth, that I seem to like a .9mm automatic pencil lead for writing, rather than the .7 that I thought I liked. .7 breaks too often. .9 doesn't break at all.

I want that clipboard. I want to lean back and write on my knee but it won't work. I'm reminded of the scene in Men in Black where all the applicants are trying to fill out the forms.

Outside the window people are rearranging the rocking chairs and drink tables. I don't now why this feels...Oh, maybe Will Smith moving the table. In Men in Black. See previous paragraph.

I seem to be free-associating in pencil. Interesting. I thought that was dependent on fast typing.

I eat chocolate. And now my mind drifts to the things that I should do and want to do and intend to do but don't do when things get stressful. Things like avoiding sugar. And writing. And reading instead of reading fascinating but un-productive online forums. Why is my mind going there? Maybe I'm finding this handwriting (hand-writing?) thing to be meditative.

Fiction. Fiction. It wants to bubble up, but it's rather like the time when, as a medium-small child, I gathered together a mess of things--string and perhaps paper clips and batteries?--and stated my intent to "invent something." But I had no idea what. It was a powerful, optimistic desire to create, with absolutely nothing behind it. (Buffy describing a martial arts move: "What's powering it? Sheer enthusiasm?")

There are people in my head. Anastasia and Amelia and Emily and Henry and Jane and that woman who's too much like my mother. I ought to write them doing...whatever. But I feel the urge for a plot. Lovejoy has a plot, but I suspect that...

I stop. I stop because all of the above requires context that's missing, and when hand-writing that apparently bothers me.

I stall. I look at the lake. I wait for the emptiness to fill. Or maybe it's not emptiness, maybe I wait for the fog to clear. Yes, there was fog this morning, obscuring the lake.

(And that was all.)