Sunday, April 18, 2021

Four Reasons I Write at a Keyboard


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Some of writers prefer to begin writing on a legal pad with a pen. They believe there is something important for them in this process. I'm a fan of novelist Daniel Silva and I've heard him say he writes his novels on a yellow pad with a certain type of pencil. Each of us need to experiment and figure out the best way for us to write.
As a young journalist with some steep deadlines (in an hour or two for the newspaper), I learned the skill of composing at the keyboard on my typewriter. There wasn't time to write something longhand or dally around with the wording of something. Instead you had to create the outline for the story in your head, then put your fingers on the keys and move. As I look back, I learned a valuable writing skill that I've been using for many years. I learned to type taking a summer school course—and did not do well. I recall getting a C for that class (probably a lack of applying myself) yet this skill is something I've used daily for decades.
While I understand the writers who begin with a legal pad, for me, I use a keyboard for several reasons.
1. Readability. To be honest, my cursive writing is unreadable and I've been printing my writing for years. Sometimes I will handwrite a note that I mail and I have to slow myself down to make the letters readable. When I interview people on the phone or in person, I always record to capture everything) but I also take notes. I don't trust my recorder and countless times have had it not work for often some weird reason. In recent years, I've found those notes growing in difficulty to read so even my printing is pretty unreadable. Writing at the keyboard is much more dependable and something I know I will be able to read later when I turn to it.
2. A Faster way to write. I'm a fairly quick typist and have been composing my thoughts on the keyboard for decades. These days I do most of my writing in my office on my desktop computer. Other times I use my laptop computer.  While I've watched friends who text with both thumbs, I am not quick at texting so that is not my method. 

In other entries about The Writing Life, I've mentioned using an AlphaSmart 3000. This old technology runs on three batteries and is a full size keyboard—not connected to the Internet. It holds over 80 pages of text. I've used mine in hotel rooms, outside on my porch and in airplanes (even if the person in front of you puts the seat back you can still type). If you want to try one, I recommend going to Ebay. In general they are inexpensive. I've written many pages on my AlphaSmart and it easily transfers to my regular computer.
3. Preserves My Writing. Using a keyboard gives me flexibility in how I use the results.  I can write an email or an article or a chapter in a book or any number of other things. I like the flexibility and possibilities which are open if I have the material in print rather than just my poor printing.
4. Helps my organization. It's one of the key skills every writer needs—organization. If you can quickly find something you've created, then you can open it and move it forward in the publication process. Scraps of paper can be lost but if I've used a keyboard for a file, I can save these files and easily access them. The details of how I have these files organized will have to wait for another article.
How do you begin the writing process? On paper or on a keyboard? Let me know your method and why in the comments below.

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