I am fifty-seven. I grew up in a time of pencils, ballpoints, fountain pens, and typewriters.
I have, in the past, used (preferred) pencil or pen on legal pads to compose stories or poems. I felt that push and pull of the writing instrument on the page to be inspiring and rewarding.
In recent years, I would hear about young people composing entire chapters of novels on their phones and think they were absolutely insane. How can you track, mentally and mechanically, your ideas on a tiny screen? How can you be connected to your words and their taste, smell, texture, when you are clicking on glass that has almost no tactile feedback at all?
Then, in 2019, I had a crisis in my twenty-nine year marriage and couldn’t sit still. Couldn’t watch tv. Couldn’t read a book. Couldn’t write a letter. Yet, the emotions of the crisis were vast and overwhelming. How do I deal with them?
I picked up my phone one day while out on the deck overlooking the beach and allowed my thumbs to skip over the glass.
In moments, I had the first poem I had written in years. The next day, another. Then a blog entry. Then another. Then more poems.
So many words I had contained for months (in some cases years) were spilling out of me. I was feeling, if not full relief, at least not so bundled up in pain.
I was surprised at just how much I connected with the words. How quickly they fell onto the screen and how cleanly they fell. At times, they felt (and still feel) much like they had in my youth, as if I was not the one writing them at all but some greater force had taken over (and I am not the spiritual sort).
I still write with my pens and pencils. I edit with my favorite fountain pens and bright, cheerful inks. However, the best flow comes on the little 3”x 6.25” computer in my hand.
This blog entry began its life just so. All my blog posts now begin and are fleshed out on my phone, move to my laptop, are sometimes printed for review/editing, then are posted.
Somehow, it connects. Somehow, I still sense these words as I did when writing with pen and paper. I still feel as linked to the words, ideas, and emotions as I ever did through a nib on fiber. I am a bit humbled by this realization. I am fifty-seven and I have been forced to recognize that art is not lost or bastardized in or by technology despite the protests of many of my generation (I am on the Boomer cusp). At the same time, I hope this also shows that we are not all floundering dinosaurs, insisting that “the old way is best.” Nor is the new way superior. It’s the typewriter vs. computer argument of old which was once the pen vs. typewriter argument. And that was once the quill vs. fountain pen argument.
Ultimately, the way that works best is the way that works for the individual in the moment. When my heart was calmer I could sit in a quiet room with those seemingly gentler implements and “compose.” Now, in this moment of my life, my heart is panicky and wild and my thumbs need to spatter my creations across the glass instead.