You can write your million words, you can pore over “Fowler’s Modern English Usage,” you can sit at the feet of a master, but you will never become a good writer unless you are at ease with the writing instrument itself.
Good writing, I believe, is a matter of allowing your thoughts to flow freely onto to a computer screen or piece of paper using a keyboard, pen or pencil. Or even if you use the latest speak-writing technology. If the instrument irritates you, it will interrupt your thoughts. Or dominate them. And the writing will go to pot.
I am a “touch-typist.” I don’t look at the keyboard. I write fast but in bursts. It is important that I am in sync with the keyboard, that I can develop a rhythm with it. The less I think about that keyboard the better.
I particularly remember my first experiences with the electric typewriter. I broke in on one with hair-trigger keys. The touch could never be set to suit me. Consequently the IBM electric went off on its own, leaving my thoughts and intentions behind. I cursed it and slammed it with a fist. My writing went steadily downhill.
I also recall a red portable typewriter. It was a beauty, and for a while I carried it on newspaper writing assignments. Unlike the IBM electric, the keys were obstinate. And I never wrote a thing I liked on it.
A journal I keep is written in ink with a ballpoint pen. I like medium tips. If the tip is “fine” or “large” I do not write as well as I could. And I have written with pens that skip or are lethargic or don’t feel right or balanced in the hand. They are irritants, maybe even minor ones, but they affect what I write.
To me, aesthetics are important. If the font is attractive on the page, I feel good about the words I put down. If the font is not to my liking, I can expect a lot of rewrite. It may sound silly but that is how my mind works. It’s visually laden. I can’t change. Neither can anyone else. Every writer is different.
I love the computer keyboards for the most part. They allow me to type fast and stop on a dime. Some are better than others. Take this Acer laptop I’m using now. It’s a little more difficult to find the starting points: The index fingers on the “f” and “j.” And it’s easy to slide off and hit a key that wipes out the last several words I’ve written. But I can live with it.
The bottom line is this. First and foremost find yourself a comfortable writing instrument. Then go after those million words.