Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Pen and the Computer

I am an engineer and the product of the digital age. I learned how to properly type in the second grade in computer class. I was the fastest typer in my seventh grade computer class. I received my first laptop when I was fifteen. I am the minute taker for my research team because I can type almost as fast as people can talk. All of this makes me perfectly tuned to writing my novels and my stories on my computer - theoretically.

Unfortunately the theory doesn't hold.

Writing a story on paper versus on the computer is something I've gone back and forth between most of my life. Until I was eighteen, I wrote everything by hand and then typed it into the computer - using this process to create my first revision. Once I got to college and no longer had my parents buying my notebooks I attempted to start writing them on the computer. Recently I started writing a novel in a notebook my sister bought me for my birthday. I wrote the first chapter in the notebook and then thought, I should be able to type the second chapter. So I did. The next day I went back and read the words I had typed and had one thought, "Gross."

This is a common occurrence when I try to type a story. I look at my computerized words and think "I can write better than this. This is awful." Then I look at my handwritten words and think "These are great."

I write better when I hand write things. Years of writing supports this hypothesis. But why? Why is this? Shouldn't it be the same? It's just words.

I type fast, and I think this hurts my writing. When I type, I'm all about getting the story down as succinctly and efficiently as possible. When I write by hand - when the pen flows across the paper writing in cursive in some strange colored pen (probably green or purple) - the words flow beautifully, thoughtfully. I pause to think more. Every stroke of the pen is purposeful, is slow, and is a thought. I write better when I write by hand. I write more beautifully when I write by hand.

I think sometimes we lose sight of the benefits of taking the slow road. We are so quick to go digital because it is more efficient, because its faster. We forget the experience of watching a movie in the theater instead of streaming it to our computer. We forget the tactile experience of actually selecting music when with a touch of a button our iPod can do it for us. We forget that stories are someone's thought child - like Athena is to Zeus - and deserves our full concentration, just not a quick click through.

Maybe next time you read or write you'll take the slow road. Maybe you'll break out the pen and paper. Maybe you'll buy a hardback book instead of an e-book. But then again, maybe you write better when typing, and I guess that's a different thing all together.

For me, I'll keep my pen and paper handy, and continue buying notebooks to write my stories in.

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