Saturday, May 5, 2007

Handwriting

Odd dream last night--the semester was just beginning, and I was supposed to be teaching a class on...handwriting. Except that I was woefully unprepared for it, and only five students registered, and they all looked really bored before I'd even begun speaking. To make matters worse, the textbook, which was about three inches thick and far wider than it was tall, was actually on the subject of "What We Mean By 'Home'." And the editor of this textbook was a writer I kind of knew back in the day, whose husband ritually trashed my first novel in the local paper.

What the hell's all that about? Anyway, I got thinking about handwriting today. I have really never written anything longhand (see the typewriter post for the one exception) save for checks, notes, and grocery lists. There's something about seeing my own handwriting, at least in the context of creative endeavor, that makes me discount whatever content the words represent. It just doesn't look serious to me, somehow.

I definitely don't feel that way about other people's handwriting, however. Indeed, there is something singularly thrilling about seeing a page of manuscript by a writer I love (the pic above is a page out of Finnegans Wake). There's the obvious reason for this--the frisson of knowing the writer's actual hand touched this page, etc etc. But there's a deeper interest as well--a manuscript page seems to reveal the act of writing as a form of work, as an inherently flawed endeavor that requires reconsideration and reshaping. This is how I like to think of art--as a form of work, not of divine intervention--and how I like to think of my favorite artists operating.

Perhaps I don't like seeing myself operating this way, though. I'm not sure how come--you'd think I'd be delighted to do what my heroes have done, the way they did it. In any event, I'm in the final stages of the submission draft of my next book, and maybe I feel a bit nervous about it. (The narrator is always saying things like "In any event..." Is this annoying?) Maybe I dreamed of handwriting, and unpreparedness, and poor attendance, as expressions of my fear that I have penned a dud.

Typed a dud, I mean. Penned! God forbid.

10 comments:

rmellis said...

I was thinking maybe I should hand write a whole novel in fat green marker. Or maybe pink. It would be a whole other animal, wouldn't it?

jrlennon said...

All in bubble letters!

5 Red Pandas said...

Ouch. A combination of the teaching dream, and the writing anxiety dream. I'm so sorry! I used to have teaching nightmare dreams, but then again, at least they were just dreams...reality was often worse!

I can't imagine writing an entire book longhand. I keep journals and a notebook where I scribble notes or thoughts about the stories/projects I'm working on, but I've never been able to write an entire fiction piece by hand- my teachers must have hated grading my tests and essays. Then again I can't imagine using a typewriter anymore. I loathed using my electric typewriter in high school, and I fell in love with the computer in college.

My husband has laptop envy, and I haven't told him that I've actually gained productivity since I've had my iBook because I know he'll want to blow the cash on his own iBook, and really, there's no need for him to go and do that. Not on my watch! I keep telling him that he's getting along fine with his laptop (which is my old laptop) even though I know it's inferior to mine. To make my deceptions worse, I suckered him into buying my old laptop to partially fund my iBook when we were still "just dating". I justified all this by telling myself that it was/is all "in service to the work!". Perhaps I've admitted too much...

Amy Palko said...

I think I like writing in hand precisely because it feels less formal. It alows me more space to brainstorm and be creative. I also think it's a lot more personal. I will always value a handwritten letter over an email, as it acts as an almost physical connection; the mark on the page you are holding in your hand, has been physically rendered by their's. I use the computer for the writing up of my work, but when I want to make a connection either with myself or an other, I choose a pen and paper.

wing said...

I don't know why, but I have a harder time writing by hand than on the computer. Perhaps because I'm used to the editability a word processor offers. I enjoy writing journals and scribbling down ideas and observations, but I'm with 5 red pandas, I also couldn't imagine writing an entire book longhand.

Funny dream.

wing said...

(heh, not that I've even written a an entire book on a computer... yet!)

Mark said...

Denis Johnson supposedly wrote Jesus' son on poster board tacked to the wall with fat markers.

Mark said...

Wow, that was a bad sentence. With fat markers, on poster board, I meant.

Amy Palko said...

Thought you might like to check this out. It's an article about a 94 year old author who is learning to type, having written all his previous books longhand.

laura said...

I just threw this dream to my Dream Workshop for the Mentally Ill. Here are their interpretations:
Feeling lack of support. Seeking approval. Needs to balance work with fun.
Now here's mine: You have a long-term investment weighing on you. You'd like to appreciate the sense of creativity it gives you, but the formalities squelch that right now. Support from the masses would be nice. The title of the text implies there is a personal investment which you'd rather not have picked apart.
A little background knowledge helps!