Those bedeviling tools of writing

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.

So far I'm at ease with my Acer keyboard.
So far I’m at ease with my Acer keyboard.

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.

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2 thoughts on “Those bedeviling tools of writing

  1. Huw Thomas August 13, 2013 / 1:09 PM

    Too true. If you’re looking at the keyboard you’re not in the zone!
    I also like my laptop (Samsung) but if I write by hand it has to be in pencil. Don’t know why. Just because.

  2. longrow August 14, 2013 / 12:48 AM

    At one time, in Cuba, Hemingway wrote with pencil and paper standing at a lectern or high desk. I read that somewhere. To each his own.

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