The Yellow Pad or the Computer

I write everything on computer – ideas, letters, books, stories and articles. I love my computer. I think my wife is a bit jealous.

TypewriterWhen I started to write, it was still the age of the typewriter. It was okay for rough drafts, but it was pure agony to produce a clean manuscript to send to a magazine or a publisher. Make a one-letter mistake and I had to start over, if I wanted a clean product. Since my hands were rough and often dirty from working in the greenhouse, I had to be extra careful with handling the paper.

Then came my first computer in 1984. It was an IBM model which cost me some four thousand dollars. I had a writing program on a floppy disk. I put it in one old IBM computerdrive on the computer and a chuckata, chuckata sound started and continued for a minute or two. Then a floppy for my writing went into the other drive and more chuckata, chuckata.

Finally I was ready to type and see what I was writing on the screen. Wonderful. I could correct my mistakes as I went, or I could go over it later. I was amazed how I could move things around or delete them. I was no longer a typist – I was a writer.

When it was time to print, the dot matrix printer would produce what I had typed, with a noise that doubled the chuckata, chuckata.

I know writers today who do their first drafts in long hand on yellow pads of Yellow padpaper. But not me. I’m a computer writer.

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7 responses to “The Yellow Pad or the Computer

  1. Our choice of tools for writing interests me. It can change over time. When I first started writing I did everything on the computer. I would sit at my kitchen table and type away listening to music playing on the CD player in the laptop. One chapter at a time and forty or so chapters later I had a rough draft of a fantasy novel.
    All the while I had been journalling three pages a day (a great technique to lose your inner critique) long-hand in spiral bound notebooks. I began mapping out the initial blurbs of my present project long-hand in these “journals”. The whole book was written that way. The long-hand inscription process was then typed into the laptop and it was creating what I like to think of as draft 1.5 – some minor tinkering with the original inspiration.
    Interesting to me is that all my poetry until it is in a near final draft is done long-hand in my spiral notebook. Only when I’m nearly satisfied with it, do I place the text into the computer.
    Things change over time. Maybe my next project will be done with one of those hand held dictating machines that will translate it right into text on the computer as I say it.
    Its not just computers or paper but the choice of pen or pencil – the choice of the type of paper: you talk of yellow pads. I can’t write long-hand on a yellow pad but I have a character in my mystery who writes on nothing but legal sized yellow pads.
    What about music? I write with different types of classical music playing while others need utter silence.
    At the end of the day it is a question of what works best for your particular creative process for that specific project. Isn’t the creative process one of the great mysteries of the universe?

  2. I like writing on paper, but rarely do it. The feel of the pen scratching reminds me of the heart of our craft. Crossed out lines demand better words to take their place. The thing I hate about it is having to go and type it all up after I am done.

  3. Ed, I can remember not being able to write the early drafts of my short stories on the typewriter (I didn’t touch a computer until 1998). Three different coloured biros, arrows everywhere, you know the deal. Then on to the electirc typewriter which I bought instead of new carpet with the flood relief money after our house got flooded in The Great Mother’s Day Flood of 1987, as locals refer to it around here.
    I don’t remember how it happened, but with the advent of the electric typewriter (I’d been battling a huge, old Underwood before that), bit by bit I found I could write first draft material on it. It was hell, of course, as I was a bad typist, and many’s the page that had to be retyped becasue I’d got more than a couple of typos on it. Working on computer is a dream. That copy and paste, that delete button – heaven! No more yellow pads for me!

    • Check out David’s response here, Danielle. As for me, like you, it’s computer all the way. I don’t know about your tax system, but here (Canada) I save all my printer, computer, paper and mailing receipts for my accountant. It’s my small business. There are ups and downs, but overall I think I’m in the black.

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