Saturday, May 19, 2007


May 19

I started reading back in 1984 diaries looking for the beginning of Joel, as he is graduating college next week, and came across early thoughts about writing on the computer. We’d already had one for close to a year, the famous Zorba. I wrote on July 25, 1984, and I was all into “the agony of writing.”

I was at that time doing galleys on Only Great Changes and also working on the novel that became Trespassers, the final Blair Morgan, and not published for more than ten years. This was at the very beginning of the publisher shake up, Scribner's would be dropping me in about a year. It was the heart of Reagonomics.

We were at the lake and I was deep into trying to get pregnant and also Being a Writer. “Do I have too many threads here?” I wrote, with an eye no doubt to the imaginary graduate student someday studying my journals for clues to the source of my brilliance, “Too much to handle at once? Maybe I have to leave out the hospital, but I really do want to finish with Blair in this book. None of this speculation, though, is the agony of writing. This is all just chewing it over: it will take care of itself later. I might, for example, separate out the Porter Otis stuff altogether, let it stand as a novella. Or turn it into a many-viewpointed piece like ‘The Birds That Stay.’”
This surprised me, that I had already at least drafted “The Birds That Stay.” Also that Porter Otis (which became the story “Evenings with Dotson”) was apparently part of what became Trespassers. Boy, you forget the details.

I go on, rather dramatically: “There is some discomfort in speculation–the pain of uncertainty. But the real agony is the blank page syndrome. Dark screen now. How to fill it with light, the page with words.” And then I went off on writing on the computer, how it seemed to encourage less linearity, and this is still true, for drafting. I think in fact the digital age encourages a lot of linear maundering in bloggers.

I commented that “there is much more freedom to stop in the middle and go in different directions. The several dimensioned flowering seems paramount instead of the linear narration. A problem of computer writing I have solved is how to make changes in hard copy. I turn to the place in the hard copy, located in on disk, wrote and rewrote the new part, then printed up (via a file called ‘Type’) and inserted it into the manuscript. The problem had been keeping hard copy and disk material equally updated. Little changes will still have to be done twice, I guess, but this larger changing will work well. The most practical effect of Zorba on my writing (and teaching and business letter writing and resume updating) is of course the ease of using drafts again. Another practical effect related, is the relatively late state of drafts that are finally printed out."

This was printed out and pasted into the journal book. The next entries were handwritten in ink, with little sketches I really like, dreams, all my agonizing over getting pregnant. As time goes on, there are increasing numbers of pasted in typed passages. I seemed to have started doing journals on the computer and saving them around the summer of 1986. Gain and loss, of course, the loss is off the flow of ink and the sketches of my dreams.

All that speculation about writing is so interesting to me to read now. I had no idea of what was ahead-- the world wide web, the incredible amount of information in each computer. David Weinberger as philosopher of the Internet, my son who I had not even met yet majoring in computer science in college. Only 22 or 23 years.

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