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PARKER: An uneasy return to pen and paper

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
May 27, 2014 - 6:44 AM

For the past three weeks I have been unable to use my MacBook.

My inability to find a UK adapter strong enough to charge the thing (or my hair dryer) left me paralyzed where technology was concerned (and frizzy elsewhere), and the first thing I did after flying into Pearson International yesterday was to find a regular old Canadian plug socket and watch as the battery went from blinking red to solid green.

I tweeted it was like eating the first French fry after attempting to do the Master Cleanse — because it was that good. 

For the past three weeks I have been writing my columns and blogs by hand before asking to borrow a computer to type them up. It has been the most bizarre experiment.

I handwrite every day. That is, I still use cursive to record my thoughts of the day, to make lists, to send postcards, to do the whole Dear Diary thing. It’s loopy and easy and I only use certain pens because I’m a snob. I enjoy it.

When I realized this was the method by which I was going to have to write my columns before hitting “send” I was excited. I felt like Jane Austen at the kitchen table, slaving out words to Pride and Prejudice. Like Virginia Woolf in a room of my own, dotting I’s and crossing T’s and creating — piece by piece — the intricacies of Mrs. Dalloway.

I felt like a writer.

Unfortunately, my brain didn’t do what it was supposed to. I carved out the space to lay the paper down, I cut out the time during which I wouldn’t be bothered, I pre-decided what I was going to write on... but the words on the page weren’t right.

I wrote like an emotional basket case, like a 14-year-old assured that life wasn’t going to go on after Camaro Cam pulled away blasting Steve Miller with his new girlfriend in the passenger seat. It was nostalgic and poetic and not sassy in the least. It was fine if I was trying to write a young adult novel, but I wasn’t. The voice that I have spent years trying to cultivate from behind my computer screen simply ceased to exist.

I panicked.

“I’ve lost it!” I cried out in despair to the stormy English Channel.

Desperate to reclaim my sense of creative-self, I went directly to the grocery store and purchased a half-bottle of red wine. I was Hemmingway in his darkest moment. I was Kerouac. I was a floundering artist in the darkness of the Sarlacc’s pit.

(OK, so maybe a Return of the Jedi analogy wasn’t the best choice there, but I’m still recovering.)

I drank the wine out of a tumbler while sitting at my Great Aunt’s dusty desktop and started to type.

Within ten minutes I wrote 700 words that sounded like I wanted them to. They were filled with “likes” and “whatevers” and weirdly placed long dashes and they oozed the conflicted nature of my infinite quarter-life crisis. I was saved. My iGenius was restored.

Later that night I sat at the window with a pen and paper, hashing out the experience. Sentences ran on for pages, words connected with one another, tiny n’s looked like m’s as I tried to determine what the difference was between my writing and my typing. I used words like “astounding” and “perplexed” and I’m pretty sure I wrote the entire thing in Iambic Pentameter.

“It’s because your handwriting is a physical extension of yourself,” said one friend. “It’s more true to you.”

Here I was, cursing my cursive for betraying my creative persona when all along my typing fingers have been manipulating me.

“The death of cursive is just another step toward conformity,” another friend said to me later.

I handwrote this column before I typed it to prove a point and I have to tell you something... I added the Star Wars analogy post-script.

— Andria is a twenty-something blogger living in Kamloops with her 100 pairs of heels and 200 paperback Penguin Classics.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
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