A good friend of mine can write in bed with a pencil and a notebook, channelling humour and originality via the old-school scratching of lead on paper.
Another has written extraordinary prose on the tiny keyboard of a Blackberry, in the back of a taxi and standing on a train, while travelling overseas.
I can’t begin to describe how much I admire them both, not just for the grace and lyrical beauty of what they produce, but for their ability to write in circumstances and with tools that, to me, are deal-breakers.
I am a creative victim of the need for speed.
As a young journalist I was required to write shorthand at 120 words a minute. I was capable of reasonable bursts up to 200 words a minute. My deadline-driven typing speed was not far behind. I became used to writing almost as fast as I could think, the words sometimes tapping themselves out on the screen before I was fully aware of them.
This was all well and good for the job but there have been some drawbacks to these handy skills. For one thing, my handwriting, once neat and well formed, has evolved into a scrawling mess as my hand and arm muscles, conditioned to writing in symbols and at speed, struggle with the careful formation of elegant letters.
What is worse is that my mind, used to slowing only slightly to accommodate shorthand or typing, now refuses to even attempt a new thought until the last one has been captured.
This means no creative writing in pencil – one can not be lyrical in shorthand – nor on keyboards so tiny that one is restricted to operating them with just one or two fingers, or even, the mind boggles, a single thumb.
Such crude instruments are fine for notes or short communications such as text messages. But, for creative purposes, I must have a full-sized keyboard capable of translating my high-speed pounding. Yes, pounding. I learned to type on an actual typewriter and my first years of journalism were spent bashing out stories on clunky computer keyboards that required a certain amount of force to ensure the letters selected were registered.
Thus handicapped by my reliance on specific and rapidly dating technology, I was a bit anxious about attempting to write on my new iPad recently.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it, longed for it and was beside myself with excitement to unwrap it Christmas morning. But my desire was to do with mobility and easy access to documents, emails, books and the Internet away from home.
While being able to write on the iPad would be an incredible bonus, I thought the lack of a real, keyboard with poundable keys might be an insurmountable obstacle. Imagine my joy to discover that the pop up keyboard on this little machine is big and responsive enough for me to reach creative speed!
Suddenly I’m free to write while waiting in the car for the school bell to ring or at a coffee shop when my little boy decides to fall asleep at a shopping centre. I can write during the tea breaks of long meetings or in those empty minutes waiting for meetings to start. So much wasted time can now be harnessed for my creative indulgence.
I know the world has much bigger and more important problems than my eccentric writing requirements. But this small development has opened up my writing world, so I thought I would share it with fellow writers.
You might shake your head and think I’m a little weird. Or you might have some writing quirks of your own and recognise a kindred spirit.
There are so many hurdles to leap in order to reach our writing goals, it’s worth celebrating the ones we manage to clear.