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Friday, November 14, 2014

Raw Materials

As you can see from this picture, I have been desperately in need of a new laptop for some time. My nifty netbook crashed on me this summer, just after I uploaded all of my videos and pictures from a music festival, of course. So I dug out this old beast, the laptop my grandfather gifted to me when I started college back in 2005. It’s been good to be over the last 9 years. Very good, even, just by the simple fact that it’s still alive and running. Not running well, I’ll give you that, but the heartbeat is still there.

Last weekend, I went to Tiger Direct to look at new laptops. While I was there, I spoke to many (unhelpful) salesmen, who didn’t really seem like they wanted to sell me anything at all. Still, there were some decent computers selling for decent prices. I contemplated purchasing a shiny Dell, or maybe this refurbished HP? But something held me back. I left the store empty-handed, promising to continue my search another day.

But today it dawned on me. I don’t actually need a new laptop. I have this fabulous desktop at school with which I can watch all of the Buzzfeed videos that my heart desires. (Oh yeah, and do a little work, too.)  And I've got my prehistoric IBM still trucking along... Do I really need another machine connecting me to the energy-suck that is the internet? Is this connection to super-fast internet a priority in my life – in the work I’m trying to do as a writer?

I started to think about what freedoms a new laptop would afford me and I realized that they were all superficial. I can’t actually say – I need a laptop so that I can be a real writer. No, a writer only needs two things: a pen, and some paper. This is what I’m learning in graduate school. You want to be a writer? Grab a pen, buy a blank notebook, and have at it.

My writing guru, you all must know who I’m talking about by now, insists that all writing must – MUST – be done by hand. If you want it to be good, that is. She says she can sniff out those writers who use a keyboard and those who still draw words on the page. (And if you read my last post, you know it’s true. She’s magic, what can I tell you.)

Not only must all writing be done by hand, but all RE-writing must also be done by hand. Revision means to see again. Your mind sees differently when it’s making words appear on a blinking screen than it does when you’re coaxing words out of a pen.

Like the way we coaxed vegetables out of the soil using our bare hands back when I spent my days bent over rows of arugula or daikon radish. Everyone knows they taste better that way. It's just a fact. Yes, we did use a tractor, but that was only for the menial (editorial) work – the weeding between rows, the stirring of soil before planting to disturb weed seeds. We did not trust this tractor to place our baby plants into the ground for us, nor did we trust them to thin out the lettuce, or weed around the super-sensitive winter squash. These tasks could only be done by hand.
Joy Harjo watches over me as I write...

So for now, I’m sticking to my notebooks and Bic pens. When the pages fill up and I’ve done my subjects justice on the page, then I will turn to the computer. Having fully explored every caveat of my story, I will transform my messy handwriting into this standardized font so that my story may have a life outside of my head, outside of my notebook. And for that, my old clunker is up for the job.