There’s something magical about writing by hand. The gentle slope of your writing as the words form beneath your hand, the indelible mark of your thoughts on the page. A screen cannot equal that. You cannot crumple the screen up in frustration and hurl it across the room, you cannot tear it up in impotent rage. Not unless you have a lot more money than me and no objections to picking glass up out of the carpet.
I found an old notebook this evening with half the pages torn out. I remember the diary I kept on those pages, I remember why I destroyed them. Would it ever have felt as satisfying to simply “Select All” and “Delete.”
Would I still have remembered the thoughts I confided to those pages?
The more digital my life becomes, the more I cling to my notebooks. I cannot take notes on my computer. I need to see a task written on a page and draw a thick, black line through it once it is done. I cannot start a story on the screen, it has to begin on a notebook’s blank page. It will get crossed out and annotated, but eventually it will grow strong enough to live a digital life.
My grandmother kept tiny little diaries into which she recorded the little things that happened during the day. Not thoughts, not emotions, just events. But I have twenty of those little books in a box in my basement. They’re a part of her that she has left behind for us, just like my great-grandmother’s cookbook that is stuffed with handwritten recipes I cannot even identify. I have old notebooks filled with my utterly embarrassing teenage poetry, old manuscripts with countless handwritten annotations. They are proof that I wrote those things. Those are my words on the page, the particular slant to my letter “d”, the diary I kept the year I worked in France.
I have a short story to write but it will not come to life on screen. I have tried and deleted and wrung my hands in frustration. So tonight I’m opening the old notebook with half the pages torn out, and writing it out by hand. As I look across at the snow-covered field outside my window, I know I can the words onto the page.
When it gets darker, I can even see the stars.
I never see those in the city.