Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pass the crayons, please

I'm writing this on a computer. I do almost all of my writing on a computer and have for 30 years (I was a cub reporter when newspapers first went electronic). So I'm pretty good at composing on a computer. It almost feels like second nature to me.


When I'm writing fiction, I often use pencil and paper. Sometimes that's because I'm in the car waiting to pick up my daughter at school or because I just need a break from the screen. But most of the time it's because fiction comes more easily when I write by hand. It puts me in a different frame of mind, one that's less analytical and linear. The writing is more organic somehow.

I don't write all my fiction by hand -- and I certainly end up on the computer very quickly after getting down those first scribbles. The revision process would be impossible any other way.

But there's something about taking pencil in hand. Especially when I've hit a rough spot, it can help me find my way.

I think it's because that's how I learned to write. When I was a kid who didn't have a head full of rules and expectations and just wrote, I used a pencil to do it. Before the nasty nitpicky* editor came to live on my shoulder and whisper all her distracting little criticisms in my ear, I wrote what I wanted to write. From head and heart to hand, no detours and no roadblocks.

That must be why the physical act of scrawling words onto paper -- feeling the scratchiness of the pencil moving, the crumbs of eraser bits under my hand -- connects me with something authentic.

I wonder if it works that way for any other writers. I wonder if it will work that way for children who have always had computers.

I don't know. But I'm glad -- grateful -- it works for me.

*The spell checker for Blogger didn't like this word, so I had to stop and look it up to make sure it was correct. No kidding. The editor wouldn't shut up until I did.