Two years ago, I discovered my favorite sound. I was sitting at my desk in my eighth-grade Language Arts classroom, my students writing away at a timed assignment that I had given them. It had to be written BY HAND in class, and, in that moment, I discovered my favorite sound: the tap-tap-tap of a pencil or pen against a desk as it writes on a sheet of paper (or the scratch of a pencil against a notebook/notepad). The audible action of writing. I marveled at how beautiful it was to me and I just basked in it for the two more minutes that my students wrote.
In his article “How Technology Affects the Way We Write“, Dean Fetzer describes some of the huge changes in technological hardware over the centuries and millennia and how these have affected the writing process. One of the largest effects is the change in not only the way we write but in the way that we think about our writing. Handwriting and editing necessitate thought and contemplation, not only of the words that we write but the shape our writing is taking. This consideration is not something that spell/grammar-checker can do for you. Much like Fetzer, the irony that I am writing this post in WordPress on my laptop is not lost on me. No, not at all. But I simply cannot like this article enough. Fetzer is not calling for the destruction of all technology but is grateful for it. At the same time, however, he is honest about the shortcomings that result from being able to take what I would sometimes probably call “the short way” – in being able to pour whatever words we wish out into an electronic medium and then send it out into the world with nary another thought.
It is so true that technology has resulted in a proliferation of writing that…might not be all that good. I try to put thought into what I write, blog, etc., but I think that this huge surge in writing/publishing has intimidated me a bit. If I do ever write a book or a novel, I want it to be something of quality and substance, not just something I put out there because I can (that’s what my blog is for; it’s my Pensieve). I have known some authors, whose work I greatly respect and admire, who have self-published or even started their own publishing companies and I marvel at that all the time. It is an accomplishment beyond measure but one that takes a bravery that I do not ascribe to myself. I don’t know if I ever dreamt of being a world-famous author or of being able to make a living from my writing. I just…wanted to write stories. Ever since I was old enough to draw and speak-story as I did. I learned to read and write early on, so I could filter those stories in my brain out onto paper, some of which I still have.
I, for one, still very much believe in by-hand writing. I keep journals by hand, pen to paper, and have done so ever since I left for college fourteen years ago. I stock up on journals for the future, as a matter of fact. There are times when it only feels right to put pen to paper and write, before I ever even open my laptop. I still type up and then print out drafts of my work (academic, fictional, and even blog draft sometimes) to edit by hand; I enjoy making the paper “bleed”. The process just doesn’t feel complete to me if I don’t. I do not want to lose the ability to or the practice of thinking about what I write, considering the shape and size and form of what I am writing and the audience that will be consuming it, not just the words that flow from my pen or my fingers. I want what I write to not just be there; I want it to be good.