Monday, 21 January 2013

A proper writer's book

It's taken nearly a decade, but I've finally returned to the wisdom of the physically written word and, with it, the creation of first drafts. It's a practice I'd abandoned as soon as my typing skills surpassed my ability to write legibly at speed. Since then, I've ignored many a recommend through many a medium to change my ways. Be it my grade school English teacher, upper-year liberal arts students, professional writers' tips on the internet, or practically any aspiring writer in any novel I've ever read; no matter the messenger, all advice fell short to the temptation of the backspace, the copy/paste, and those niggly lines of as-you-type spell-check. The tools of computer composition provide the possibility of perpetual editing, of interrupting the flow of words at any moment a better idea strikes, and without all the mess of scribbles and arrows, of words squeezed in between the lines and whole phrases crammed along the margins. It's all too easy to forget that writing is an inherently messy business when all mistakes are wiped away with an invisibility that puts liquid paper to shame.

Not only does computer writing appear neater, it's most accommodating too. Thanks to internet access, any reference material a writer could want is also at one's finger tips: thesaurus, dictionary and encyclopedias are all just a mouse-click away. This convenience, of course, is also the computer's Achilles' heel: infinite interesting yet irrelevant articles, amusing but distracting archived web comics and blog posts, and the endless black holes of tumblers and social media are just as easily accessible as all those practical writer's aids. For all the time I save in scribbles, scouring bookshelves, and flipping pages, I lose a hundredfold to internet diversions.

And so, much as I'll miss the kinetic touch of keyboard composition, I've gone and bought myself a proper writer's book. It's a neat stack of blank, lined pages of comfortable weight, bound in an embossed cover with a design reminiscent of an Edwardian first edition. It even has a crimson ribbon bookmark - far too serious to be filled with grocery lists, email addresses, and random reminders. It's solid enough to allow writing without a table top, light enough to carry on one's person, small enough to create the illusion of prolific composition, yet large enough to not fill up too fast. I'd like to imaging it's the kind of notebook Woodsworth might have taken on a ramble in the country, lest inspiration strike him unprepared, or perhaps what L. M. Montgomery's Emily Starr might have recognized as a Jimmy-book. An old-fashioned typewriter may have been a more fitting, given my fondness for pianist-like dexterity, but it would be quite the investment for a little hobby blog. And, short of learning stenography, portability would remain a problem. My fingers will just have to settle for interpretation over creation.

Will my antique tool inspire actual prolificity? Probably not. Naptimes continue to come at a premium, and there are only so many movies I'll allow my toddler in any given week, much as I love the silence it buys me. I may, however, indulge in a higher volume of archaic words and phrases. Mine tome, entombed in parchment hue, hath appoint├ęd it.

Yay verily, but for the grace of type, write I.

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