To Write With Pen On Pad

Sometimes I feel that it’s easy to forget how to write. Not in a figurative sense but in that we forget the act of writing.

To write with pen on pad is something which I’ve come to embrace in recent months after years of using the keyboard for my every whim.

The keyboard may be swift and uniform but it opposes emotion, form.

And in that way it may strip those elements from our own writing if we let it grow too familiar.

After months of typing out every word I found that my handwriting, once a beautiful script had deteriorated into an illegible scrawl. Where once I’d wished to write in the Erskine style common to my grandmother and her peers and held my pen license as one of my greatest achievements I found that my writing was closer to handwriting, as in the font.

And so I stopped writing notes on a screen and found anew my way with pen, and pad.

Have you ever stopped to watch your hand actually write? How with the tiniest movements great swirls and shapes can fall upon the page. And if you stop and think a little more and realise how clever it is, how very very clever that someones hand first discovered this and that your brain learnt to make all the little connections between exners and the supramarginal angular gyrus, between primary visual and primary motor and primary visual once again. It is so very very clever and yet, so simple.

And besides, screens can be so exhausting with their shiny brightness.

A piece of paper is more forgiving, cathartic.

I read in an article that scenery must be deserved, that you must go out and earn it. Sometimes I feel like writing is the same. With a keyboard things become easy, copying and pasting, formatting, spelling, grammar. With a keyboard the world is at your finger tips and information but a moments breath away. And so you don’t pause. Look back. Consider.

Even as I write this I’m hammering on and what I’ve already written is disappearing up the page above me. I’m not going to find this piece of writing lying around on a discarded sheet on my bedroom floor. I’m not going to be able to spy a minute fault or pattern of wording as I glimpse across my desk.

Does that make it more sterile, or more spontaneous?

On writing my favourite poem is this.


My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.

This is how I go about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants, and a pot of cold tea.

Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
Completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.

Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.

Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.
I should mention that sometimes I leave my penis on.
I find it difficult to ignore the temptation.
Then I am a skeleton with a penis at a typewriter.

In this condition I write extraordinary love poems,
most of them exploiting the connection between sex
and death.

I am concentration itself: I exist in a universe
where there is nothing but sex, death and typewriting.

After a spell of this I remove my penis too.
Then I am all skull and bones typing into the afternoon.
Just the absolute essentials, no flounces.

Now I write only about death, most classical of themes
in language light as the air between my ribs.

Afterward, I reward myself by going for a drive at sunset.
I replace my organs and slip back into my flesh
And clothes. Then I back the car out of the garage
And speed through woods on winding country roads,
Passing stone walls, farmhouses, and frozen ponds,
All perfectly arranged like words in a famous sonnet.

– Billy Collins

I too like Wednesdays.


About madicattt

Curator of The Things That Are Good. Sharing the things that stand out in the worlds of theatre, food, beauty and style.
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2 Responses to To Write With Pen On Pad

  1. Oh, yes, the computer screen can be exhausting. And physical paper and pen a quiet relief for the eyes. I definitely agree.

    A few years ago, I was given a calligraphy pen, one that you had to actually dip in an inkwell. I played around with it and discovered not only was it very easy to use but the writing that came from it had ten times the character and beauty of writing from a ball-point pen. The mere fact that vertical lines are wider than horizontal ones, and that curves acquire or lose width so perfectly evenly as you make them transforms even the most mundane note into something to be admired. I think it could become a popular form of therapy in this digital age!

    • madicattt says:

      That’s so true. I’d love to own a pen like that. It’s the sort of thing that brings writing back to being a joy rather than a chore or task that must be completed.

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