Conventions

That Handwritten Past

I hope you’re having a good weekend. Yesterday, I paused at one point to have a look through my first (and only) printer-generated copy of my Conventions manuscript. As I turned pages, I also asked myself: “Why the heck am I keeping this?”

As with my earlier books (I’ve got similar copies of those someplace), I never really considered it โ€œrealโ€ until I had used up seemingly half of my printer’s ink supply to print the entire book out on that paper. It also required quite a bit of paper: about 260 pages, fronts and backs. Once it was on that paper, though, I felt, I was almost there.

[The first printed version of Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Photo by me, 2018.]

It is essential, I believe, in finishing a book, to review a printed version, page by page. Most people still do not use e-readers, and I feel a reading experience of a printed book is different from that of an e-book. It’s vital to put yourself in the paper readerโ€™s place as well.

I print a manuscript only when I feel I’ve got matters “under control.” Now, I’m tweaking and refining. I’ll make scratch notes over the typing and in the margins.

I tend to zero in on some things that especially catch my eye. I may think: “Oh, I don’t like that line.” Or that won’t do: “Most people on the planet have no idea where Greene County is, but they may have heard of the Catskills…”

[From the first printed version of Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Photo by me, 2018.]

Now and then I spot writing that somehow had indeed read better on this print version than on the PC. In that case, the print version definitely “wins.” Or suddenly I think of something to add, perhaps dramatically, such as “My mother is terrified of the sea…”

[From the first printed version of Conventions: The Garden At Paris. Photo by me, 2018.]

Despite it being finished and available for a year, I just can’t bring myself to shred that very first, and corrected/changed in places, printer version. Why is that? What is it about (some of) us that we keep things like this?

I suppose in a life sense I think of my paper manuscripts this way. Pre-internet (meaning most of her pre-retirement life), my now late mother had a paper address book that was like “the Bible” of contacts: it contained alphabetical, handwritten addresses of family and friends… and what gradually became, with the inevitable passage of time, many wrong addresses and numbers leading to assorted crossings out, and eventually even dead people’s contact details. It was also overstuffed with post-it notes and ripped pieces of paper with new phone numbers and mailing addresses haphazardly added after she had run out of space for penning in new ones under this letter or that. As a then “know-it-all” teen and young twenty-something I laughed at her over it.

Naturally I had laughed way too soon. Over in the Catskills I happen to have my own – smaller – version in a drawer. With the arrival of PCs, I stopped updating it in the late 1990s. Now it’s like a “snapshot” of my life up until then, similarly filled with lots of wrong addresses and (landline) phone numbers, and wrong email addresses. Perhaps there are some still right ones for people I haven’t seen in decades and who would probably be shocked if they ever heard from me – assuming they even still check, uh, CompuServe. (Does that even still exist?) It is sadly also increasingly full of, as with my mother’s, people I knew who are now deceased.

Am I just ridiculously sentimental? That’s probably why I’ve become a writer. I suppose we all are in some form or another.

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Probably related to that fact, as you may know I’m also a fan of Soundcloud. It is full of talented “indie” musicians. Not unlike writers on the Kindle, I suppose.

Usually I listen to music as I write, sometimes that which Iโ€™d discovered on there. Based on my classical/piano other tastes, I was suggested that yesterday. I gave it a listen and I “liked” it – both literally and figuratively.

Here’s a 15 or so seconds video clip I took in the office, to highlight a few seconds of it. Her name is Miranda Shvangiradze. According to her bio she’s originally from the country of Georgia, and is now in Arizona, USA.

And she plays beautifully. The full piece is here. It’s nearly thirty minutes long… and I’ve discovered it’s thirty minutes that will go by in a flash.

See you (hopefully) next week. ๐Ÿ™‚

2 replies »

  1. There’s nothing wrong with sentimentality, my old childhood notebooks are some of my most precious possessions!

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