Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Pen is Mightier

The original picture of the nerd, at least from my wonder years, was of a person surrounded by books and in possession of a pocket full of pens. I am a nerd, old school, and proud of it. My house contains many towers of books and my completely awesome pen collection that no one is allowed to touch. I adore my pens.

When I was in junior high, I spent many blissful hours creating and perfecting my own version of the cursive alphabet, just so my writing would look more visually appealing. I wrote in my journal every night about some cute boy or another. I wrote notes to my friends and letters to my pen pal. I scribbled notes in class, and drew pictures in the margins. All with the magic of a pen flowing effortlessly along the smoothness of the paper. The act of placing a pen to paper to record my thoughts was bliss.

I took a typing class in high school and learned to type on an ACTUAL TYPEWRITER. It was not even electric, because that hadn't been discovered yet. I learned to whack the keys really hard with my fingers in a fast pattern that created words, even if I kept stopping to correct my spelling. The typewriter never took the place of my beloved pens, however. I just could not fit a Smith-Corona into my purse, and the correcting fluid kept leaking out of the bottle. I went back to my pens.

When I was in college, computers were becoming popular. It was all about BASIC, Fortran, and COBOL, which turned out to have nothing to do with Battlestar Galactica. I was intrigued by these new programming languages, and they used the same QWERTY keyboard that I was already used to pecking at. The benefit of the computer was that it sped up the writing; you could churn out a decent research paper in half the time it would take to write it or type it. I do a passable job at using a computer these days.

But though it speeds up the heart rate, and provides hours of cardiovascular support, the 'clack-clackety' of the basic keyboard is rather banal. A computer ultimately does not support my creative process. You can't thoughtfully chew on your keyboard. You can't put your keyboard behind your ear to demonstrate that you are thinking very hard. In case anyone is looking.

My family is pretty tech-savvy, thanks to the efforts of my husband. We have all kinds of tech stuff. At the end of the day, however, when I have an idea or a list or a 'to-do', I reach for a pen. I reach for simplicity. For in the comfort of that tripod grip, of letting my fingers feel the vibrations of the paper as the ink flows over it in the act of creation, I sometimes find the self I want to be.


  1. I was at the bookstore with a friend yesterday and we both wanted to note some titles for future purchase. I got out my pen and notebook and she started tapping into her iPhone. I was not in the least bit envious!

  2. I sense a kindred spirit in you, Andrea! Plus, I bet you make a mean margarita. Bonus!

  3. I am so glad to know that I am not the only OLD SCHOOL around! I make my journalism students learn to take notes and require them to take notes with interviews even if they use a recorder. They grumble but ultimately learn that there is a benefit to this. I think it would be ashame to completely lose the WRITTEN WORD.

  4. I'm afraid we're going to need to see a scan of that special cursive alphabet. . .

  5. It's a little embarrassing to be a certain age and speak of actual typewriters, mimeograph machines and adding machines - to a completely blank, younger audience!!

  6. Red, I just think that makes us smarter--that we remember these things. Of course, it's hard to feel smart when I lost my car keys on a daily basis, but it's all I've got.


I welcome comments, but reserve the right to correct your spelling because I am OCD about it!