It was my birthday a few days ago. I've never been one to get too excited about it, not even, that I can remember, when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure that I enjoyed Christmas way more than birth day. Also, I would much rather give a present than receive something, not because I'm a nice person but because being handed a gift embarrasses me. Christmas was perfect because the presents were snuck into place and I therefore didn't have to interact with anybody. Santa was my ultimate hero. I've never been too keen on parties or celebrations either. Hoopla makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I'm feeling kind of Woody Allenish right now, except not quite as pedantic and hilarious, which would leave me skinny (I wish), short and neurotic. Ah, well... I did buy myself a present. Were I to be hypnotized and regressed to earlier parts of my life (I have a very bad memory otherwise), I would probably find that I get myself the same thing all the time. My gift to me was a couple of notebooks. I LOVE notebooks. And I also purchased a pen but if you gave me the deserted island scenario were I could only take one thing and had to choose between pen or pencil, I would invariably choose pencil. Basic, #2. I'm pretty crafty, I'd figure out a way to get it nice and sharp, probably with the edge of a clam. I'd also use the clam to make paper out of coconuts.
I've gone through most every version of the personal computer that one can imagine, from the electric typewriter to an old mac word perfect machine that had a screen smaller than the 5 1/4" floppy that stored the work. Are you old enough to remember those floppies? That was around the time that you could take a fork and scrape it against a CD and it literally wouldn't scratch the surface (before the light bulb went off and they decided to make them scratch magnets instead). Scratch proof CD's? I know that's hard to believe, but its true. When I lived in Queens after my son was born, probably late 1984, our cop landlord was interested in new gadgety electronics and he calls us up to his apartment one afternoon extremely excited. All of a sudden he starts throwing these shiny things against the wall like little metallic frisbees. He was beside himself with glee about these UFOs. "It's not an LP, it's a CD! ITS A CD!" We found out later he was a bit of a cocaine-head, but CD's were pretty exciting back then, even though all they held was music.
There was a time later in my twenties that I went through a phase of collecting antique typewriters. Not to write with, just sort of to look at, or to weigh things down with in case of a hurricane. I have a feeling 'collection' is not a unique stage for writer's to go through. For some reason the cool little thrift shops on Washington Avenue down on Miami Beach circa 1989 were filled with these things. This was back in the day when you could actually find parking on the beach. Parking on the beach? I know that's hard to believe, but its true. Hopefully, fifty years from now these 75 pound relics will become as awe inspiring as pterodactyl bones. Look at this picture. Am I dreaming to think they will be so venerated? My grand kids will probably think I was using them to write my novels on without any real idea of how insanely quickly tools have morphed in the last hundred years. Wait, I'm blowing my mind...
And all I've ever really needed is a notebook and a pencil anyway. Well, for thirty years a cigarette was also a requirement. (conjuring French accent in my head) Vehry Frehnsh, noh! OUI! Sitting at ze cahfe with ze expressoh in the black chinohs and ze black turtle neck, noh! OUI! OUI! I seyh, S'il vous plait!! Voila. (ok, that's all I got.) Actually, I have never written in a cafe or a coffee shop, I get too easily distracted. I've never heard a french person say ze either, I don't know where that characterization came from or why it stuck... Maybe they do say ze. I haven't met the majority of French people but my husbands x-wife has a great French accent and I've listened carefully and have not once heard her say ze. Um... what the hell was I talking about? Ah, oui, notebook and pencil. That really is my preference. Look, I love sitting here writing with my self taught QWERTY choreography, seeing the words magically appearing on the screen, but I don't get that same visceral, artistic connection with a keyboard that I get when I feel and hear the sharp tip of a lead pencil scraping against a nice clean sheet of paper. It almost makes my mouth water. But, yeah, a PC is like a frigging Lear Jet. Imagine how much more prolific POE would have been... Wait, imagine KING with papyrus? I'm blowing my mind again...
Technological wonders aside, writing is a cathartic experience. When I'm fully connecting with the creative wormhole and ideas are flowing from that place in my head that feels like another planet, directly from there through my fingertips; that first introduction to the place, the time, the character, it just seems so much more natural with simple tools. Sort of like using a midwife and a bathtub when giving birth. For complete, uninterrupted, smooth purging in an efficient and quick matter, PC, but for the truth? Pencil on paper. Under my bed I have a flat box that holds dozens of notebooks with handwritten first drafts. I even have the notebook that holds my first novel sketched into its pages. I've said it before, writing is an art form. For real. We are artists. Words are beautiful and the structure and rhythm that emerges from whatever our individual process is, is as important as anything Mozart translated into music notes or that Michelangelo painted onto the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. It's our expression. It's our blood beating out into words. It's us.
I'm not comparing myself to Mozart and Michelangelo. Or to Poe and King. Those are masters. But if you divide up who we all are, the common denominator will be that inherent, intense drive for creation. We must do it or we blow apart like dandelions. Think about how unique art is to humans. With the human trait of self awareness - which can feel like a curse sometimes - comes, for me, the most defining element that makes us human - the trait of symbolism. Why are we as humans so driven to record our renditions of things?
Because we want to say, "I was here." Yeah. That's what I think. There's no difference between me and the humans that painted these images in caves over twelve thousand years ago. That part of me that craves the pencil over the keyboard is the same primal part of me that gets mesmerized by the colors of the sinking sun and that makes me catch my breath when I see a shooting star. Its the part that makes me human. Wow, I'm blowing my mind. Blowing my own mind? I know its hard to believe, but its true.
P.S. Knowing how to receive a gift is a form of grace that for some reason I am not familiar with, but it is something that I am learning. If I am inclined to think of someone and desire to give them something to show my love or simple appreciation, then I need to conform to the fact that other people are going to be inclined to do that too. Who am I to deny anyone of their thoughtfulness? It's a big deal to me because I know it's part of how I'm wired incorrectly, so its important that I acknowledge the fact that I'm working on it . :o)