Monday, August 17, 2009

Going offline to write

I took an afternoon off from the computer yesterday to revise poems the old-fashioned way: with pen and paper, sitting outdoors in a café. It amazed me to see how much more productive I was than with fingers poised above a keyboard. While I am a big fan of computing and the Internet, writing is a slow affair, at least for me. The speed of word processing is anathema to my poetic process. It cannot be attributed to a pencil-and-paper childhood, as I learned to touch-type at age ten and was fast by eleven, typing out my first novel of 100 pages on a Smith-Corona portable (that I still miss).

But poetry is a very different animal than prose. I noticed yesterday that I would put down the pen, let the pages riffle in the wind, sip my iced tea and people-watch while wrestling with my subconscious for le mot juste. Again and again. I became aware that it might take five minutes or more for a few possible words to stream through my mind, and then another five to decide which one I wanted to use. I don't usually allow myself that kind of time -- and it's esthetically unappealing to dream while staring at a screen.