Ah, autumn has arrived. There’s a chill in the morning air these days, and a sense that the turning of the leaves and darkening of the skies is just around the corner. We had a very short summer here, and are likely to have an equally short fall. But be that as it may, I love this time of year. Having grown up in Wisconsin, I have a very strong sense of the seasons, and Fall brings me back to apple-picking and leaf pile-jumping and, perhaps most importantly, football season.
Having grown up loving the Green Bay Packers, it is of course only right and natural for me for me to show my Packer pride and support whenever possible. This year, I’m playing on two different fantasy football leagues (heavy on the Packers players, of course) and have subsequently bought the NFL Sunday Ticket package; the end result is that on Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays I am an all-football, all-the-time kind of girl. With fantasy players spread all across the NFL, I frantically try to watch as much of the action as I can. And in a way, I can sort of understand why someone would want to watch two TVs at the same time. With so much great football to watch, I just can’t get it all in! Football season also initiates the beginning of my knitting season, which I like to do during football games not only because it gets me into the Fall/Winter groove but also because it helps me through those nerve-wrecking red zone plays.
While I admit that the bulk of my weekend was spent on the couch watching football, I did manage to get in a few good runs with Mona, an excellent batch of banana bread (to make up for the one I botched last weekend), lots of much-needed sleep, and—best of all—a little bit of good writing.
For the first time in about two months, I found myself at a place where I could work on some new material and really move my character further into the meat of her journey. I had set Saturday aside specifically for this purpose and was actually excited to sit down in my office, even though we all know what a torturous process this can sometimes be for me (see previous post). But every time I got settled at my desk with the intention of being there for a very long time, nothing much happened. The writing did not come. Mostly I just sat there, twirling my hair into knots, feeling useless. After several hours of such toiling and despair, I had only written a few scrappy paragraphs of this new chapter for my novel.
Disappointed, I finally gave up and called the day a wash, and headed back to my spot on the couch at 10 pm on Saturday night, thinking I’d just try again the next day. After all, there are times when forcing oneself to push through the discomfort proves fruitful, and there are other times when such endeavors do not produce anything at all. But just when I’d gotten all cozy on the couch with a blanket and a new woodburning project, I got an idea for a key scene in my new chapter. I pressed pause on the TV, and grabbed the nearest paper and pen, and set to work right there on top of my woodburning project. I don’t know why I didn’t walk the 15 feet into my office, but in the middle of this furious scribbling, I realized that it felt good to hand-write this scene, and that seemed to be allowing me to really plow forward in a mad rush of words and letters, so that I wasn’t getting in my own way as much as I had been while typing at the computer all day. I finished about three pages of hand-written work, and finally went to the computer to type everything up; in the end, I’d managed to eek out four solid pages of good material, and I went to bed that night feeling satisfied.
And on Sunday night, after all the football games had finished and I’d checked my fantasy standings one last time, I tried to make some magic happen in the office. Again, nothing. So instead, I snuggled up in bed with a yellow legal pad and my favorite pen, and began writing. Once more the words flowed with that elusive ease I had been chasing after all weekend. Another key scene found its way onto the page, and again I was satisfied.
I don’t know too many writers who begin their first drafts with pen and paper; we live in the digital age and with so many easier, more convenient ways to document and store our work, handwriting seems antiquated, almost obsolete. I have always enjoyed crafting at least the first drafts of my poems by hand, and find that handwriting yields different results than typing, almost as if it is another person is doing the writing, at least in that genre. Typing on an old-fashioned typewriter creates yet another distinctly different voice and writing style.
So I suppose that it makes sense for handwriting to be a natural comfort on those days when the writing does not flow as easily and naturally as I would like, and that it might open up parts of my creativity that a computer screen and keyboard cannot. I used to sit with giant sketchpads sprawled open across my lap, and let poems spread out across and down the giant page. Staring at the prescribed and intensely structured margins and formatting of a Microsoft Word document seems a strange contrast to the time-honored experience of putting pen to paper, feeling the glide and scratch of ink on the page. Letting myself work with so few boundaries and without technology interfering in any way was always a fun exercise, and one that seems to bear repeating.
I’ll likely spend most of my after-work hours watching football tonight, but I might also spend it with one of those oversized sketchbooks and a favorite pen, making a big old mess on that beautiful, empty page.