On The Practicalities of Writing

I’ve just sent a large chunk of writing to my supervisors (drafts of two chapters, to be precise) and feel pretty drained. In fact the mere sight of my laptop makes me feel exhausted – even though I’ve clearly managed to suppress that feeling as I’m writing this piece on it.

My holidays are almost over, if you can call them that – I’ve only spent one week in blissfull oblivion and worked throughout the rest of the summer, albeit with reduced speed. It was worth it, and I got a lot of work done. This humble laptop processed over 20.000 words for me (and deleted a lot more, but that’s an entirely different story).

Due to technological developments, most of us are now used to putting our ideas on screen rather than paper. One of my colleagues remembers submitting handwritten papers during her bachelor’s degree in the ninetees but after that the world has quickly changed into a screen-dominated place. Even though the paperless office is still an illusion – at least, mine still is – computers and tablets have become the main media through which academic thoughts are now created and communicated.

Over the summer I took up a hobby which I’ve neglected a little bit over the past six months or so. I used to be a passionate amateur writer of fiction, and given the fact that I’m studying at a university which is famous for its creative writing programme and live in a Unesco City of Literature, not finding time to write something non-academic made me feel slightly dishearted. But after a long day at work I just couldn’t find the courage to switch on my computer once more and write.

I’ve always been a fan of paper notebooks – they’re great for organizing your thoughts – and treated myself to a large stack from my favourite Dutch store. One evening I found myself looking at them, then witnessed myself choosing one, and writing my first short story in months. It’s called The Glass House, and it was produced over the course of several rainy evenings.

The experience was an epiphany: perhaps I needed a change of media. The humble feeling of pen against paper made me more creative. I’ve continued to work on a new story which as of now has no title yet, but again I’m writing on paper rather than on my laptop and I find it so much easier to keep going.

It has made me think about my writing practices, not only as a hobby but also in a professional sense. Perhaps it’s good to change habits every now and then, break free from the screens we’ve grown so accustomed to, and create something which is immediately physical – words on a page – even though it is not perfect. My MA-thesis supervisor always said he could tell whether people were paper- or screen-users and I used to think he was bluffing. But now I think he was right: I need a paper-more office.

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