Two weeks ago I wrote here that my topics for upcoming posts would arise from my current project: undertaking a major revision of my paranormal romance The Vanth. This post has nothing to do with The Vanth itself (herself?) but much to do with the process of revision. I doubt that I would have become a novelist without learning to use a computer, and thus acquiring the ability to move large blocks of text around without having to literally cut and paste and then retype it all.
This is not to say that I don’t write by hand. I do. I filled a dozen or more blank books during my travel year, and I have stacks of labeled boxes of old journals in a funny little attic next to my office. Some go back 50 years or more.
Many writers, especially poets, prefer to write only by hand. Some claim their creativity flows most directly that way to the paper, and this may be even more true of left-handed writers. Lefties as a group may or may not be more creative or intuitive than the rest of us, but the left hand is linked to the non-linear, instinctive, not to say illogical right side of the brain. Certainly some of the greatest poetry can be called illogical, and I think all poetry is, at some level, best processed in a non-linear way. But I am not a poet.
Back in the days when people with cell phones were a minority, back when hardly anyone even took photos on their phones, let alone surfing the web, reading or even, by now, more than likely writing books on them, back when more and more people had personal computers while some still settled for modern technology in a simpler form, back in the 1980s, the poet Jesse Bernstein would sometimes ask guests, “Hey, wanna see my word processor?”
When they said yes, he’d grin, dig into his pocket and produce a stub of pencil. That was more joke than truth, though, because in fact Jesse did most of his work on typewriters. He loved them with a passion that went far beyond his extraordinarily well-developed office supply fetish. (I’ve never known anyone who owned more paper clips, more staples—or more staplers—than Jesse.) Though he (unlike me) stopped short of naming his machines, they were individuals to him, with distinct personalities.
He generally had at least two, and often three typewriters, but his dearest possession was a sturdy pale green portable Hermes 3000. That model, he used to say, was famed as a war correspondent’s typewriter—and Jesse did consider himself a war correspondent.
Jesse also loved the narrow, spiral-bound notepads used by reporters—it was mostly on them that he wore his pencils down—and once persuaded Regina Hackett, arts reporter for the old Post-Intelligencer, to get him a stack of them imprinted with the P-I’s logo on the covers.
Why did Jesse call himself a war correspondent? As a child and youth he had been forced to live in the filthy and dangerous underside of our society, its streets, its institutions. The unimaginable abuse he suffered there had left a legacy of nightmares and PTSD that meant he never truly left that war zone; it was no wonder he identified withViet Nam vets and Holocaust survivors. He often said it was his duty as a survivor to speak for those who had not survived or who had no voice. So he spent hours in his office clacking away on his Hermes, sending out dispatches, in the form of poems, from the battlefront of despair and madness.
Me, I’ve never suffered that much. I do entertainment, and sometimes a lighter form of journalism, telling small but true stories of writers I’ve known.