Thursday, March 3, 2011

Renewing your first works.

For many years I wrote longhand. I favored top-bound pads with heavy backing so I could write anywhere. And I did write anywhere, any time I had a few extra minutes (or could make a few extra minutes). Every few days – sometimes every week or so – I'd devote a predawn morning to typing what I'd written on the family's desktop computer.

When I was able to afford my first second-hand laptop, I felt like I'd been liberated. No more deciphering my crabbed hybrid of cursive and print, trying to remember the letters I'd intended with a tangled blot of lines, no more mornings racing against a paling sky and the impending day job I could type my stories anywhere. And look like I was writing – not scribbling – while I did it. I soon reached the point where I could not write longhand. I could write myself reminders of bits of dialog, or sketch a flowchart of the plot, or maybe make lists of salient points and details I did not want to forget, but I could not write creatively without a keyboard under my fingers.

This was for the most part fine. It sped up the process, got me from idea to mailed manuscript faster, increased my productivity a dozen fold. It felt good to be productive.

But in recent months my life has been complex. And my day job – which was once about helping people in person – is now about filling out forms online and typing up treatment plans and progress notes and reports to Medicaid justifying requests for thirty more days of service. All I do is type. Sitting at the keyboard to write stopped feeling like a new adventure and began felling like a seamless continuation of the day job. Writing became more work than it had been in a long time, and what I wrote I id not like.

So this past weekend I tried something new. I picked up a thick notebook and a sharpie pen and began writing whenever I found myself idle. I have written about the world around me, the lives of people I see and overhear. I have worked on a story, and have the bones of an essay on liturgical religions and faith. And I have found the tactile sense of the writing process – the grip of the pen, the feel of the pen point scratching its way across the paper – to be therapeutic. Even refreshing.

So once again I've been liberated in my writing. I've given up the tyranny of the keyboard for the freedom of the undemanding pad. I've come full circle – which would seem like the end if a single circle was what our lives are about. But each of us lives an ongoing a process, and what looks like an ending is simply the beginning of another revolution. We all of us will go through phases in our writing, and what we once did we will do again. The trick is to go with the changes, even if the they take you back to things you thought you'd left behind. Keep writing.


Charles Gramlich said...

I know someone else who has begun to do that too and found it liberating. Maybe I should give it a try. I hardly ever write longehand.

Lynn Emery said...

Whoa, I have the same kind of job (Medicaid paperwork), small world. I'm the opposite though. I seamlessly go home and mentally switch gears. Using my keyboard more doesn't seem connected to the day job at all. Just goes to show how unique, and ever changing, the human creative process is.

KeVin K. said...

Lynn -- As a QP I've long had a Sisyphus figurine on my desk. With the recent chanages I've asked my wife -- an intensive care nurse -- to bring home the packaging from an FMS so I could tape the label to my office computer.

Liane Spicer said...

Change and more change, the only constant. Tried some longhand recently. Didn't like what I wrote, but at least I wrote.

Mare Biddle said...

I very much appreciate the tactile changeover from keys to pen. I work out problems in my $.50 spiral notebook - beginnings, middles, and endings. I also find introductions to new characters on those pages too. And occasionally I just bitch and whine. All part of the process. Thanks for this post!