Friday, July 24, 2015
Although I was doing some basic computer programming back in the early 1980s and bought my first desktop computer back in 1984, using it to write my second novel and finding that word processing was a huge improvement over working on my old electric typewriter, so on, so forth, I'm not a digital native. Didn't grow up with computers, let alone the internet; can't contribute anything to the debates about Scrivener v. Ulysses; still use notebooks for research and stray ideas, and scrap paper to unravel and re-ravel tricky sentences, jot down notes about the next day's work and for general doodling. And still find it tricky to copy edit and proof manuscripts on the screen, which is why, thanks to the patient tolerance of my editor, I'm currently working through the copy edit of Into Everywhere on an old-school printed manuscript with pencilled mark-up. Rereading the novel on actual pages reveals infelicities that somehow weren't apparent when working on various drafts on screen. And there's something satisfying about using pen, pencil and eraser to make changes, rather than fiddling with Microsoft Word's accursed change tracking system: something more immediate than tapping on keys. Something more like work. Perhaps because, not being a digital native, I still locate work in the real world. In the scratch of pen on paper, the flow of ink, the wobbly pressure of an eraser as it removes pencil marks. Also, and this is crucial, there's a definite shift in perception when I'm leaning over the page and looking down instead of looking straight ahead. It's somehow more engaging, makes it easier to displace the blooming buzzing confusion of the rest of the world, and tracking sentences word by word with the point of a pen instead of following a cursor sets up a rhythm that refines my concentration in a different way. Engages different muscles; different neural pathways. Maybe those pathways were laid down in the years I spent writing stuff down instead of looking at screens and tapping keys; maybe they're a hardwired response to a different perspective. Try it and see.