Amy L. Wink has taught writing and literature at several universities. During a recent persoanl computer crash, she rediscovered the joys...and power...of putting pen to paper. Excerpts are below. Click on the title to read her entire article.
"As my initial panic subsided, I saw what I could do alone, independent of my favorite technology. I printed my edition manuscript and pulled out pencils. I found the notebooks I’d kept several years ago and reviewed what I had written by hand using the old technology I reserve for writing in my journals: my Waterman fountain pen. It came as a shock to find that I had forgotten how effective writing this way could be. Used to the exciting tools on the computer — the thesaurus, the word count — I’d forgotten that I had written the entire preface of the edition in long-hand well before transferring the draft to my computer. It’s not that I never used my pen or the notebooks I cached. I have, in fact, delighted in the sensual pleasures of the flowing ink and the lovely Japanese paper that fills the notebooks. That paper does provide, as the cover proclaims “most advanced quality” and “gives best writing features.” I love the way the ink works with this paper but I usually reserve that pleasure for my journal writing, preferring the illusion of speed in my other work. “Work” proceeds more effectively on the computer, or so I told myself.
In my break from computer assistance, I discovered a new truth: writing by hand can make my thinking go faster. This was a jolt to my fixed ideas indeed. As I developed my working life, my writing process, and my consciousness around my adored computer, I had ignored several strategies that worked as well or better to enhance my work. Though forced as I was to adapt because of my loss, the change in my own perceptions of my writing process were dramatic and refreshing. Instead of stagnating, I transformed my thinking. Instead of falling into inertia, I pursued my work, developing new energies as I did so. I discovered I could write 500 words in one hour.
Perhaps my computer had become more of a task-master than I imagined. Unlike the singular relationship pen has to paper, my computer holds all my tasks, so when I open the desktop’s folders, my attention remains divided among the projects I must sort through before starting on the one I choose. Putting pen to paper isolates the task at hand to the plain work of putting words on paper. Plain like Jane Eyre, without adornment, straightforward. My computer had become Blanche Ingram, right down to her alabaster skin."