Long Live Olde School

Post Date: July 13th, 2010

To be real, one must go retro. Not some tweet-text-IM spamming everywhere, gone with the next breath, and so typical of this useless Age of Noughts.

Instead, let truth be told in this old-school journal. Note the red leather, hardbound. Note the handwriting—cursive. Note the lock and key. Let’s do this like monks, like nuns, like girls of old.

— Wendy from my novel St. Michael, Pray for Us

Shakespeare geek that I am, I salivated over this t-shirt the other day, but alas, I am afeard, ’tis not for sale.

But some of us are all about olde school in more than just our dress; we like things retro when it comes to technology.

For instance, my cell phone is a squat little 99-cent Kyocera that barely does the job–just enough to allow me that emergency call from the road. I’d still be driving that 1990 Honda Accord had someone not driven it into another car. And when it comes to writing on the computer, I must print out several drafts of a story to really see it.

Jan Swafford of Slate shares not only this philosophy but a powerful teaching tip. His students learned he required them to edit by hand in hard copy after first-drafting on a computer. He writes:

Here’s how it works, with me and with most writers I know (because I’ve asked). I’ve used computers for more than 25 years. I draft prose on-screen, work it over until I can’t find much wrong with it, then double-space it and print it out. At that point I discover what’s really there, which is ordinarily hazy, bloated, and boring. It looked pretty good on-screen, but it’s crap. My first drafts on paper, after what amount to several drafts on computer, look like a battlefield.

Like a battlefield. Amen. I love the speed with which I can draft on a computer, but when it comes time to read, print, and find that red pen. And not just once, either; I need a print-out for every new draft.

On the backs of old drafts, of course. One should be new school about the environment.

Swafford also notes that when we return to screen to edit, a new set of editor’s errors can crop up, so always, take great care.

The best way to do that? Read it aloud. Sure, it takes time. But time is given to that which really matters. And that’s an old school philosophy if there ever was one.

1 Comment

  1. Duane says:

    If you’re interested, I’ve got a whole bunch of other Shakespeare Geek t-shirts that are for sale over here : http://www.zazzle.com/shakespearegeek

    Not trying to spam you blog, I’ve actually run the ShakespeareGeek.com site for many years and always like to stop by and say hello when people refer to themselves as Shakespeare geeks ;).