Today starts the next 600 posts on writers and writing. And last night told me what the subject must be.

Last night, after a truly satisfying day at the rewrite, I made the mistake of trying to have a quick look at the next block I needed to work on, to pre-set my mind on the path of the morning.

Big effin’ mistake.

The section is far from right. It slogs. It repeats. It meanders. It pulls the plot down into a pit of self-created quicksand. It was a knowledge hard to swallow—like trying to scarf down some big, disgusting mouthful of something you’re made to eat on Fear Factor.

And yet….

Out of the momentary panic, a solution. A determination to kick it old-style. On paper.

It is strange for me—such a paper-bound writer, so enamored of notebooks—to know that my writing life has wandered so far from its reliance on the guts of fallen trees. I haven’t seen my own writing on paper in more than a year…and that was when friend Belinda printed out The Spiritkeeper to read in the only way she cares to do.

But okay, bring it. I will walk away from the laptop for a little while. I will take my printout and write in the clean white margins. I will wrestle my problem to the ground in the way writers have done for centuries.

We have strayed from the tactile joys of papyrus; the feeling of the pen scribing its way across a blank white sheet. We have traded it for the convenience of being able to write and rewrite (and rewrite and rewrite) without having to type the same page 500 times. I never thought I could write into an electronic device—for years I wrote by hand before I typed, the way I still do with notes and notebooks (although, forgive me, paper and pen, notes have begun creeping from the late-night tape recorder straight into their desktop files.) Now I can’t really imagine writing any way except electronically…although I do despair at the thought of being somewhere with a great idea, a dying battery, and no way to recharge.

Perhaps one day our hands will be different, as our ability to read has become…fingers and muscles evolved to the percussive motions of the keyboard rather than the graceful curls of cursive. Perhaps the ability to hand-write anything longer than a Post-It note will become a quaint antique skill, the province and practice of Luddites. Perhaps it already is.

For now, for today, it’s ironic to think that the means for clearing my mental logjam is made of the logs themselves. We’ll see what comes of the idea: Was a time when I was good on paper….

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