On Writing Before Typing

Nonfiction by | May 16, 2010

While my friends fret with their laptops to do their assignments, I calmly write down ideas from my mind. Somehow, even with the proliferation of computing machines, I still find myself sticking it out with pen and paper. There is courage and strength when I hold a pen in my hand and set out to conquer the clean, empty space of the paper. Not that I disdain the computer. In fact, my games of Plants vs. Zombies show my fondness for it. the computer helps me with a lot of things, like the submission of reports and assignments.  However, I enjoy contributing to the bin by writing my thoughts first before typing them.

Decades back, articles had to be rewritten again and again before they could make sense from a messy outline. It took time before they landed in the bookshops and newsstands, much more at the Internet. Not that those computers were hard to come by those days. People just didn’t read much back then, as they do now.

The availability of computers today changes all that. Much time could be saved by firing off words directly into the computer. Revision is not anymore a matter of parentheses and crisscrossing arrows on the page. Now it’s cut-and-paste, or hitting the insert or delete tabs. Even the thesaurus is just a click away. You don’t have to worry about your editor laughing off her head with your first grade spelling. The P6 pen, P10 notebook, and P100 handy dictionary now seemed to be too difficult to pull out of the bag.

In the face of all these changes, I find myself lagging behind the crowd. I’ve become a block of ice frozen in time, relying on running water to keep me moving with the current. Not that I’m ashamed about it. I find myself honored to belong to this little group of people who are either ignorant of the computer or are simply contented to continue the traditional way of writing. Let me explain. The ease and delight in the practice of the craft determine the way a writer brings ideas into the world. The majority take pleasure in the availability of many actions in front of the monitor (or typewriter, for that matter). The melody produced by the keyboard, when neurons from the brain fire off signals to the fingers, is magical to the inspired—or even to the tired one. The drumbeats of the spacebar, the high-pitched notes of the mouse, and the sheer exaltation at the music of the printer doing its job. Who does not get inspired seeing a digital copy of the finished product immediately right after finishing it, and with the exact font size and font type one wanted? Who does not desire a heavenly show of light at the photocopy machine thereafter—except for the cranky clerk at the counter? And for the converted—+the psychological satisfaction of hearing the Windows tune before the computer completely shuts down. That is, after a dozen hours at Facebook and some fifteen minutes at MS Word Frenzy.

On the downside, however, the computer is a slave to two masters—the writer and the electric current flowing into the room. No matter how inspired the writer’s hand may be, if the electricity cannot find its way into the wires, he cannot write down what he has in his mind. And he risks a hunched back when he uses a laptop. For me though, there is an ethereal feeling, like a conversation with the unconscious, whenever the pen/pencil is grasped and played with by my fingers, and when it walks on the surface of the paper. There is satisfaction, even with the rows of lines used to crush out words from the sentence. Like a painter swishing the brush to create images, arrows bring one idea to another. For some unknown purpose, there is the thrill when one writes indistinct words to catch up with a fleeting inspiration. I feel a sense of freedom creating an unintelligible representation on paper. I feel relief after giving vent to my pent-up feelings and after crumpling another draft—with the sound of the paper’s death becoming music to my ears. After which I become like a child trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle—sorting out what has been written from what should be understood. The act of typing then becomes the tedious and unmeritorious job for me, like climbing a hill after conquering a mountain. So little energy is spent in here, for as JOMA puts it, “the muse of poetry is demanding and jealous. She abandons the poet if not devoted enough and takes on some other preoccupying tasks.” Writing is exhausting; typing for submission is not.

Not that I resist change. I find computers helpful when I’m in the final stages of completing some writing. I enjoy scribbling, crushing out words and phrases, connecting ideas, and making sense of my indecipherable handwriting. My priority is not to get the job done, but to be a step closer with the Absolute in my own way. Not rushing things, but taking time and embedding myself deeper into writing.

Marvin Doods de Castro is a young writer from Bislig.

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