Saturday, May 2, 2009


I hate writing on a computer.

That isn’t to say that I’m a Luddite. Indeed, I don’t believe I have a technophobic bone in my body. College had me taking notes on a laptop long before it became common, and life would be far less fun without a bunch of unabridged books on an iPod. Also, as you may know, I like to blog every once in a while. No, the reason I despise pecking away in Microsoft Word is that it all too easily becomes an electronic version of a hamster wheel.

Here’s how it goes. You open up a new document and stare at that great expanse of undifferentiated blankness. You only get a few sentences into your intro before realizing that it is, in fact, appallingly bad, among the worst things that you’ve ever done. You highlight and delete. You make sure autosave is off, so that in case you suddenly die of an embolism the machine won’t inadvertently immortalize any future drek and subject you to posthumous disdain. You give it another go, except this time you only get to the second sentence before subjecting it all to oblivion in a fit of despair. A few mis-starts later and you feel as though you couldn’t string two words together if someone put the proverbial gun to your head. So you shut down your computer and go into the kitchen and, to comfort yourself, eat the entire pan of brownies your wife had baked for her office party.

A bleak scenario. But I found something to save me from despair and cripplingly high cholesterol -- scratch paper. Yes, those extra pages my printer spews out, pleas for money from political action committees and unsolicited faxes trumpeting penny stocks all help keep my writing going. After all, you can’t erase pen on wood pulp. And who cares if you fill a page with pointless scribbling. It’s scratch paper! On the next sheet, maybe you can salvage a clause or a sentence or even a whole paragraph, something you can type into the word processor and not immediately erase. Ideas flow so much easier once we prime the pump a little.

(Picture: CC 2007 by


B. Nagel said...

At the library where I work, in my department alone, we have 4 white paper recycle bags. We make a lot of copies. So I have plenty of scrap paper.

My biggest problem with long hand is that my longhand is atrocious and I can't write fast enough to keep up with the sentences as they come pouring out of my mind. It is highly possible that problem one springs from problem two.

Loren Eaton said...

You may do better with typing, then. I have an atrocious self-censor stuck in my head, so the speed of a computer lets me destroy my own ideas all that quicker. Hence the scratch paper. Even right now, I'm getting rid of sentences almost as fast as I type them. Maybe a pact with the devil would help ...

ollwen said...

I have this same problem with drawing. When I do try, with Wacom tablet in Photoshop, it's so much easier to be horrified and CTRL+A, DEL. It doesn't help that nothing quite has the feel of pencil on paper. Sometimes it takes a few un-ambitions doodles on scrap paper to get the mental juices flowing and hooked up to hand coordination line.

Loren Eaton said...

Yeah, that's one of the ways in which technology definitely hasn't enriched our lives.