Monday, April 9, 2012

I is for Ink

We'll add a short post today as I catch up after missing yesterday. This one is about process and how mine has evolved in ways which don't always please me. It's also a lament for something we've lost in today's digital age.
The blog title "Pixel and ink-stained wretch" might strike you as metaphorical. Pixels, after all, don't stain and even those who do write in ink usually have it in a form that doesn't stain; you have to really work at it to get any kind of ink-stains on your hands with a ball-point pen. I'll admit that I never have been stained by pixels, but the "ink" part is a touch more literal; my original process, which I have since abandoned, is to write first-drafts with a fountain-pen, only later typing them into a word processor.
Why? First, really fine tools have a sense of permanence. One of my favorite pens is a vintage Pelican from the 1960s. Sometimes I hold it and wonder who owned it before me, what was written with it. The electronic devices we use now will fall into obsolesence within five years, much less five decades. The link to the past is nice.
Second, there's a certain thoughtfulness which comes from writing in pen-and-ink. If your words are to be permanently and idelibly marked on the page it forces you to pause and consider them first. I find this a different mental process than the much quicker write-edit-write-edit cycle I employ writing on a computer. (For those wondering, this blog is written completely electronically. Most posts are drafted on my tablet - an Asus SL101 slider - and then briefly editted on a desktop PC).  Writer Mary Robinette Kowal talked about this when, during a brief time she'd not be on the internet, she invited people to write letters to her. Real, hand-written letters. Some did, and she repeated the process for a month of letter-writing in February. You can see some correspondance with her fictional characters here.
And, finally, there's a sensual pleasure in using a physical tool. Its weight in your hand. The slight resistance as you draw the nib across the paper. The variations in lineweight and penmanship based on the writer's state of mind. The way different writing implements feel a bit different, the barrel of this one is a bit heavier, the nib on that one a bit more flexible, etc.
I don't do this anymore. Mostly because I write in odd stolen moments on the subway or bus, after which even I won't be able to read my handwriting. It's also faster in that I get an editable, ready-to-work-on draft in one step rather than two. What's the lost thing I aluded to? Manuscripts. In my earlier (and not very good) work, I can read the first draft an see my very beginning thoughts on a piece. Today, we have none of that. Unless you compulsively save with different revisions, there's a window into a writer's process which is forever closed. That I find sad.
Thanks for joining me today; see you tomorrow for J.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! I'd never thought of vintage pens that way. Great post! :)