Like many writers, I survived my angsty youth by writing. I credit part of the discovery to my friend Melinda, who I met at camp between 5th and 6th grade who was the world’s BEST pen pal. I’d write. She’d write back. I’d write back… For over a decade we wrote probably a dozen letters a month. We shared pre-teen stuff, then early teen… in our teens we added in song lyrics and poetry (mostly stuff I wrote from my end—she did more seeking out of things that fit). She introduced me to the Psychedelic Furs (angsty stuff if ever there was any)—you see, I was in a hard rock town. She was across the state border in a much more cosmopolitan place (Pullman drawing students from Seattle—a resource Moscow just didn’t have). Oh, sure… chuckle if you like. It is how I saw it then.
In college I kept up the pen pals. And for a couple years I kept up the journaling, until I had a boyfriend who felt that not SHOWING him was hiding stuff from him. Fine. I just won’t write then (I know now I should have just drawn the line with the boyfriend—it’s private and if you can’t live with that, I can’t live with the relationship).
I majored in Journalism and Psychology, but with Journalism, I actually feared the writing… okay… not the writing… I liked that… the TALKING TO PEOPLE. That is the part I feared. Interview? No way… Advertising was my emphasis… I know a lot about the media. I know the rules of copywriting and press releases… but I never did take a news writing class because I was afraid of talking to people.
Enter the Computer:
I only took one term of computers in college and it was a strange Mac programming class, but when I graduated I knew I’d have an advantage if I learned a little, so I signed up for a Dos/WordPerfect/Lotus class that summer that I did my internship. When I got my job at the end of the summer, that class made me the expert in my office for using the solitary computer the account service people shared.
I used it to type minutes from meetings (because they always needed editing) but the typewriter at my desk was for letter (at first)… As I got more proficient, I used the computer for more (after all, I was the only one who could).
THEN I took my business hiatus… you see… I got a little wary of advertising… it lost its glamour and so when I got a new HORRIBLE boss, I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to find another advertising job. Instead I took up waitressing and applied to graduate school.
I guess my point is post grad school I’ve written quite a lot professionally, all on a computer. But the content is scientific. The grammar is proper and cool, and the content is given in a prescribed way.
Four years ago (last Sunday, in fact) I began my first effort at fiction after the 1993 effort at a novel. A dozen years later a few things were different. I had two children, my home computer was no longer sitting in the center of activity, and I’d gotten in the habit of taking a bath every night to unwind. So I began The Other Prince (a fan fiction story about Eileen Snape) in my bathtub…recycled paper (no lines) on a clip board, mostly, all long hand.
I was surprised how easily the story flowed… then again I’d had a plan for some mid points and the ending (something I’d never had before and learned (read: finally accepted) made for better books from my Harry Potter discussions).
Since that time, I’ve written a few ‘episodes’ at the computer, and I have several short stories I’ve written that way. You know what? People notice. My ‘voice’ is not the same at the computer. It is either clinical (my professional voice) or overly zany (my forum/blog/Facebook voice). I don’t get the characterization right. My dialog is jilted. So I have come to a conclusion…
I believe my brain path for ‘creating’ is intertwined with the handwriting, and that the path that goes through computer usage has been filled with the tails (the super serious and super silly) of the kinds of things I can produce.
I’ve asked my HPANA friends this, but am curious about others. I think this is related to three things: 1) age, 2) a habit of having hand written (journaling, letters, etc) and 3) conflicting things you might use the computer for.
So informal poll… how do you do it, and what are the answers (generally) to the above three questions… then I can provide some stats for you!!! (okay, so nobody gets excited about stats like I do… it still might be interesting…