Friday, April 3, 2020

The Writing Medium

I wanted to call this post "Writing Media," but too many pitfalls came to mind. I feared some people would think it is about writing for the media - not the point. Others might think it is about one way of writing - it is about many, and "Media" is plural, not singular (I know people who think media is singular and to them, the plural is somehow always medias - smh). And of course, the word "Media" sets off a lot of alarms with people and directs the wrong keyword searches to my page. Let's bypass all those.

When I talk about The Writing Medium, I mean the physical way we create our stories, poems, and so forth. I'll put this into three common categories - writing longhand (old school), typing (high school), or AI dictation (new school). I use all these methods at some point or another, and also discuss them in my workshop. Writers of all stripes generally carry similar feelings and relationships with these media, so let's take a look.

Written word. Whether pen or pencil, eraser or scratch-out, any and everyone who writes their words longhand appreciates a very intimate, detailed relationship with their piece. Writing is extremely tactile, magnitudes more so than typing - an endless staccato of uniformly smooth keystrokes. Our pen or pencil has its own texture, it presses against our fingertips as we feel the paper flow unevenly underneath the tip. Each sound and stroke is unique, from the swoosh of crossing the t to that pop when we dot the i. Whenever you feel jammed up and unable to write/type/dictate that perfect sentence, put a good old #2 pencil in your hand and roll the coarse wood across your fingers. The Pavlovian trigger will have you writing in no time.

Typing. This is a different experience, and depending on our career and our stage in life, typing can be very efficient but terribly sterilizing to the writing process. Think about a lucky personal accessory - that hat you wear on third dates or those shoes that make you feel like the boss of the room. If you wore that hat or those shoes every day, would they feel lucky every time, or would their magical luck wash away? When we type, we type emails, memos, reports, blah blah blah... so many boring things in life get poured onto a keyboard that the sensation loses its flair. I shift this by using my laptop keyboard for creative stuff, then attach a USB keyboard with a different feel for the boring stuff. Weird? Absolutely. However, the patter of fingers across the laptop keyboard like kitten feet makes me a writer again, while that clunky attached keyboard puts my mind into the simple frame of catching up on correspondence.

AI dictation. Finally, artificial intelligence has reached a point where we can dictate our stories and fill a word processor page virtually in real time. No more keyboard - I can write as fast as I can talk. What could go wrong?

Literally everything.

Let's just put it this way - the way we talk is not the way we write. We speak in the passive voice, we say "uh" and "y'know" too many times. Our spoken words are clumsy and untrained. Learn to craft your speaking voice into your narrative voice before entering the world of dictation, or you will spend more time rewriting your dictated book that you ever would've just by writing it.

And don't get me started on typewriters. Those just bring back bad high-school memories (which I will discuss in my next post).

2 comments:

  1. I do a lot of "mental writing" before I type. I find it most helpful. (I wonder if you will be broaching the subject of manual typewriters next post.)

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    1. The mental writing is always important. I just try to remind people that mental writing is breakfast, not dinner.

      (and there will be some typewriter talk next week)

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