Finished my review of Thor.
“Well, then, Lance, where is it?” you ask. Or don’t. I’m pretending you do for the sake of getting this post rolling and it would help if you make believe along with me. “Well, then, Lance,” you ask, “Where is it?”
Why, right here, dear reader.
(Actually, it’s here now.)
I’ve mentioned a number of times over the years how this blog grew out of my longtime practice of keeping a notebook. I’ve made a point of mentioning it, in fact, partly to emphasize what I think I’m up to here. The blog is a notebook. There’s nothing finished here. No single post, no matter how long or essayic, is a done deal. Every post is in a way a continuation of the last one and an introduction to the next, because they’re all about the same thing: What’s on Lance’s mind at the moment. I call them notebooks because I do keep notes in them. Buy bread. Mom’s b’day Sat. Dr appt 3:30. But most of the entries are longer, contain complete thoughts, and tell stories, if only stories of a single sentence. I could, if I was more comfortable with the word, call my notebooks journals, and nobody keeps journals. They keep a journal. The reason for the singular is that no matter how many pages you use up to do it and no matter how many days, months, or years those pages cover, it’s all one story, the story of what was on the writer’s mind at the moment as he worked his way towards…something.
I’m working my way towards something. I’m not sure what. Enlightenment? Wisdom? An abatement of loneliness? A cure for insomnia? The respect of strong men and the affection of beautiful women? A six-figure book deal?
All of those, probably, but mainly I’m working my way to my next post.
Actually, I’m usually more focused on working my way to the next sentence.
But what’s on my mind right now isn’t the art or philosophy or psychology of keeping a notebook.
I still carry a notebook wherever I go, even when I’m also traveling with my netbook. And I’ll write in the notebook while the netbook’s up and running and Windows Live Writer’s open on the screen. Sometimes what I’m doing is making notes for the post I’m writing at the moment, scribbling stuff down as I go as I try to keep up with my own thoughts. Sometimes I’m making notes for another post that I may or may not get to typing up later. I work out of my notebooks but usually what I’m working from is bits and pieces, single words meant to trigger ideas, snatches of thoughts, phrases, occasionally whole sentences and even paragraphs. Now and then I’ll actually write what amounts to a whole post and all I need to do when I type it up is rearrange things. But as you can see from the photos I don’t always stick to writing in a notebook.
Every now and then, I’ll write out a whole post on some scrap paper. I usually resort to this, as opposed to methodically and diligently setting out to do it, when my head’s full of ideas and I’m in a rush to empty them out onto the page. And I need to hurry. If I’ve got a whole paragraph or, as regularly happens, a whole post already composed in my mind, there’s a real risk that I’ll have forgotten large chunks of what I planned to write before I’ve typed it all out. I’m just not that fast a typist. And one of the things that slows me down is I have a problem sitting still.
I like to move around when I write. I go from chair to chair and from room to room and it’s easier to leave the netbook in one spot and stop off to type up what I’ve written in the kitchen on my way to the family room. Another problem, though, is that I’m just not comfortable working in the posture that’s best for typing. I do some of my best writing bent over close to a table with my my chin on my fist. Otherwise, I like to sit back in a chair with my ankle up on my knee and it’s risky trying to bang away at a keyboard wobbling precariously on the other knee. And from time to time I just have to stretch out on my stomach on the bed or the floor.
On the floor, Lance? let’s pretend again you’re asking, Really? At your age?
Yep. It’s good for my back and it makes me feel like the young Abe Lincoln working away on a slate in front of the fire in his family’s log cabin.
Now. My reason for telling you all this is to make it clear that a lot of times when I say I’m writing a post, I’m writing a post.
On paper, with a pen.
There’s no virtue in this. It’s a habit, not a principle. Writing a post out by hand first doesn’t necessarily mean the published post will be a better written post than one I’ve typed up in one mad flail at the keyboard. It helps because it means I’ve had a chance to think things through at least twice. It forces me to revise and edit. But I mainly do it for the reasons I said, I can spit out an idea faster and I’m more comfortable while doing it, but it’s also the case that’s how I learned to write, which is to say, that’s how I learned to think things through, while moving a pen across a piece of paper.
I taught myself how to type in grade school but it wasn’t until long after I’d move on to computers that I taught myself to compose while typing. Throughout high school I had the bad habit of doing my homework, including writing essays, in study halls before classes. I could write very fast but they didn’t let me bring my typewriter to school. And I wrote all my short stories and plays and movie scripts late at night after my family had gone to bed and whenever I used the typewriter, even if I working down in the basement, Mom or Pop Mannion would appear at the top of the stairs to tell me to cut out the racket, people were trying to sleep and what was I doing up anyway, didn’t I know it was a school night?
Typing, then, was for a long time a second step in the process or even a third or a fourth or a fifth, depending on how many drafts I wrote out by hand. Even when I’d typed out a draft or, later, printed one out, I’d cover it over with handwritten corrections and revisions before setting to work to revise it on a new typewritten page or on the screen.
Which brings me at last to my real point.
My handwriting is atrocious!
Really. It’s bloody awful.
I mean, seriously, can you read this?
Never mind. I shouldn’t even ask you to try.
My old pal Nance has asked me to stop sending her post cards because trying to read them gives her a headache. Wev McEwen still likes me to send them because she gets a kick out of trying to decipher them and then letting me know what sort of nonsense I appear to have scratched out.
The sad thing is that I used to have beautiful handwriting. Both my printing and my cursive were exemplary. I got A’s in penmanship. Of course, I went to a Catholic school and even when our kids were going Catholic schools were still teaching penmanship. That stopped for them when we moved here and they started attending public school. Oliver was only in second grade at the time, which probably explains why his handwriting is so much worse than his brother’s. What’s curious to me is that public schools---a lot of them, anyway---stopped teaching penmanship long before personal computers became ubiquitous. I don’t understand why. It’s not as though all these little kids had started lugging their Smith-Coronas to school. Both our guys can type pretty well. But they still have to hand write their answers on tests and exams. Oliver’s teachers complain that they have a hard time reading his printing, but they should direct their complaints to their colleagues in the elementary school. They say---the big THEY who say everything, not Oliver’s teachers---they say that being able to handwrite anything is an outmoded skill. I suppose someday it might be. But that day hasn’t arrived. Besides exams, there are still forms to fill out, envelopes to address. Post cards and paper greeting cards are on their way to becoming artifacts from the past, I know, but some people still send them. It’s not hard to imagine a world when nothing has to be written down, although the paperless office still hasn’t arrived, has it? There was a report going around last month that the last typewriter factory had closed, but that turned out not to be true.
I don’t know what happened to my handwriting. It started to deteriorate when I was in my late twenties which, probably not coincidentally, was when I became addicted to email. As long as nobody but me has to read it, I guess it doesn’t matter how much worse it gets. I probably won’t ever give up my paper notebooks but I’ve been looking forward to the day when somebody comes up with a smart and reliable handwriting recognition software. A tablet computer that I can actually write on would be a dream toy for me.
I still like to send post cards and greeting cards and I like to receive them too and if you want to make my day sometime, drop me a line. My snail mail address is right up there in the sidebar.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go type up my next post.
Meanwhile, here’s a post by Brian Palmer who thinks that schools should still be teaching kids to use cursive.
Didn’t there used to be a school of penmanship called the Palmer Method?
PS. The review has been typed up an posted. Thor. Mighty enough. Not enough other things.