Tony Romano on writing...
Scratching the Paper
made a breakthrough this past summer. I can now compose at the computer!
Iíve always been able to compose letters, class assignments, work for
textbooks, even essays, at the computer, but thatís because Iíve always
considered this Nuts and Bolts writing. Thereís usually already raw
material I get to work with. I just need to fashion it, hammer out the
chinks, and polish and polishóand polish again. But this summer I
started writing fiction at the computer. Fiction is the stuff of dreams,
lies, half-truths. You have to squeeze ideas from cold air, and that
little hum from the computer screen had always seemed like a pesty fly
to me, as if IT were reminding me to come on already. Sounds a little
psychotic, I know, but I finally convinced myself to defy the computerís
taunting and sit there until the stories spilled out.
So why did I abandon my 0.3mm rolling pen that softly scratches the
paper as it glides along, a sound Iíve always found satisfying? Iím not
really sure. I do know that when I sit at a desk writing fiction, the
process is painstaking; ideas dribble out in quiet spurts. On the other
hand, when I write nonfictionóat the keyboardómy ideas flow fairly
steadily. I donít worry as much about creating the perfect sentence. I
write and forge ahead and know I can go back later and repair the
clunkers. Some time last summer I thought, Hmmm, maybe I could apply
this fairly productive technique to my fiction-writing. I could sit in
front of a pulsating screen, and the story lies would break out in
waves. That hasnít exactly happened, but I have been more productive. I
donít censor myself as much during the first few drafts. I tap and tap
and edit later.
Ah, but now Iíve created another monster. Iím tied to the computer. And
since Iím committed to writing fiction in the morningóone habit I donít
want to abandon just yetóI have to find a computer at the school where I
work. And the computer needs to be in a room where I can be by myself
without interruption for a good hour or two. Unless I decide to spend
thousands of dollars on a laptop, which I donít want to do because my
kids need new shoes, I have a problem, one which I havenít solved yet.
This is only my third day back at school, so Iím not panicking yet, but
Iím working on a novel and I have two characters sitting in a DeSoto,
waiting for me to decide their fate. Whether they get out of that car
through the scratching of the pen or the tapping of the keys is
immaterial, I suppose. But they do need to get out. I feel them waiting.