Saturday, September 4, 2010

Old Faithful

August was the month where I reconnected with an old, dear friend. I've come to realize that I was a fool to shun this relationship, but what can I say? Like so many others, I thought I wanted sophistication. I was seduced by power. I thought more and more money equaled more and more desirability. I was so wrong.

I don't care who calls me old-fashioned, I've returned to my roots. I've resurrected my fondness for...the notebook.

Yes, you heard me. Not the mini-computer of the same name. I mean the kind of notebook with lined, blank pages that just beg you to scribble on them.

Okay, so I'll admit my age here--when I started writing, the only computers were big hunks that took up entire warehouses. One summer--I was maybe 13--I found a pristine steno pad lying around the house. (Footnote to youngsters: a steno pad is a small notebook bound at the top.) My parents said I could have it (if Ma had known what it would lead to, she'd have given me a prescription pad instead). I started writing all kinds of stuff in that tablet--sappy poetry, a corny musical, the beginning of a mystery story.

When I filled that pad, I procured another (I don't remember how). I kept writing. I switched to sidebound, college-ruled notebooks, so I could fit more inside, but I still liked the small size. By high school, I had one notebook for stories and another for poetry and adolescent angst (i.e. venting about life). My favorite places to write were out on the porch on nice days or up in my bedroom before sleep. In college, I kept at least one notebook in my nightstand all 4 years.

As soon as I got a job after graduation, though, even before I bought a car, I treated myself to a Commodore 64 (to youngsters: It's a computer. Really. 64 stood for "K" RAM. No hard drive.
Hamsters probably have more mental capacity). I never admitted it to anyone, but I bought that sucker so I could write more. I pictured pretty printouts of my stories and no writer's cramp.

But I STILL kept a notebook. No way could I lug the 64 with me everywhere I wanted to write. I still loved working on the porch. I belonged to a swim club and, despite the splashing and noise, I wrote there. Evenings, I'd type my notebook scribbles into the 64. I actually finished two novel-length mysteries (albeit definitely student works).

Even after I switched to a PC, I kept to my notebook method. For my first published novel, BY BLOOD POSSESSED, I'd get up early, and write in my notebook for 2 to 4 hours. Then I'd get breakfast, go upstairs and type in what I'd written, doing a first-pass edit on it. Sometimes I'd do research in the afternoon and evenings, or I'd write more in my notebook. I kept a steady flow of words going this way and got that first draft done in a little under 4 months.

A few years ago, I got a laptop. Okay, I thought, now I can write anywhere. Thing is, I didn't. My writing slowed down considerably. I just couldn't seem to visualize and get the story down. I felt like I had less time to write, and when I did have time, I couldn't seem to be creative. At the same time, I was dealing with things like aging parents, so I diagnosed the problem as stress.

A couple weeks ago, I went on a writing retreat (see my blog RETREAT). I had to bring my laptop, of course. While I was grocery shopping for food to bring, I saw and fell in love with the puppy in the photo. And the cool thing was, he was on the cover of a small, college-ruled notebook that cost a mere buck, forty-nine. I adopted him on the spot.

On the retreat, I went back to my notebook-first method. And I averaged about the same number of words per day as I did on BY BLOOD POSSESSED.

Since I've been home, I'm not quite as prolific, but when I make myself use that notebook, I find I'm writing more and better. Something about a plain lined page and mechanical pencil stimulates my mind more than a keyboard and glowing screen.

I named the puppy Scratch.


1 comment:

Pattie T. said...

My very favorite form of writing is on a steno pad. I always have one with me, and love the freedom of the top binding.


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