One of my favorite and most oft quoted bits from the Princess Bride is that “When the job went wrong you went back to the beginning” (I also frequently misquote it as “when a job goes bad, you go back to the beginning. Well, this is the beginning…” Poetic license?).
There may actually be truth in that advice.
When I first started scribbling stories with the intent of publishing, I didn’t have the trappings of fancy technology around me. My process was simple, because it was the process I could afford. I filled a marble notebook by hand. When I reached a significant volume or stopping point, I would take those stories and type them up into my computer. The beauty of this arrangement, as Ben Sherlock points out, is that in the process of transferring handwritten words to typed, your internal editor has an opportunity to massage what is being transcribed, to clean it up a bit. That makes for a typed draft that has already passed the first phase of the editorial process, which is nice.
This wasn’t good enough for me. I referred to this as the process I could afford, but it wasn’t the one I thought would be ideal. This was a time when that dream machine, the laptop, the icon of mobile word smithing, was over two thousand dollars, far outside my budget fresh out of college. To that end I bought a palm pilot, and when that proved insufficient, the add-on, fold out keyboard (I was commuting by train at the time, so that worked for me). And there began the beginning of my downfall. My notebooks began to suffer – after all, now I could push text straight from my brain to a 3×5 inch screen, who needed that extra step on purpose?
Over time, I ended up with the laptop, as well as future iterations of technology designed to help me (or so I thought) get words into order quicker so I could turn a story around faster. But for all of that progress technologically, I still have only a few finished books (inadmissible to even the best of my friends or family) and nothing published. Removing those filters between brain and screen has done nothing to help my productivity or salability.
For this long weekend, at least, I’ve gone back to the beginning. Starting Wednesday after work, I haven’t touched a computer except to make this blog post. I’ve only penned six hand written pages of notes, excerpts, and brain storming, and yet that’s actually more progress than I’ve made in the last few weeks.
Maybe this fad, too, will pass. Or maybe I will find myself like Jerry Fletcher in Conspiracy Theory, my walls lined with a madman’s collection of marble notebooks filled in tight script during a fit of hypergraphia. What I am sure of is that those plots points that have been out of my reach, the goal posts between the significant turning points, are finally being filled in. There is an indescribable euphoria to fighting back the first moments of sleep as you scribble down your latest crazy idea to see if it sounds as good on paper as it did in your head – and then to discover not only does it sound great, but that this opens up all kinds of doors that you must record now before they too are lost to you. Even if your bed partner is now standing beside the bed, tapping their foot, waiting for you to maybe move so they can lay down where you have a notebook spread out.
Hope you’re having a good weekend too!
- The Writer’s Magic Notebook (sboonlondon.wordpress.com)