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Writing tools

Yesterday I took three more tests for that government writing job I’ve been trying to qualify for. I had to write a communique, edit the copy on a promotional web page, and prioritize a list of tasks while providing justification for my decisions and outlining next steps.

I need 70% on each of these tests to proceed to the next level. I feel reasonably optimistic that I achieved 70%, but you never know. The government is a different sort of beast. And I had a migraine.

You know what was weird? Writing on paper with a pencil. I tend to write and edit simultaneously, and then when I’m done, I read the whole thing over and make more changes. I move things around a lot. I listen to they rhythm of my words and sentences, and change things accordingly. It’s both a logical and an intuitive process, and it works a whole lot better on a computer than it does on paper.

I wasn’t always this way. When I got my first computer, back in 1988, I found the transition from typewriter to computer strange and difficult. I liked the tangibility of pages. I liked having a first draft, a second draft, and a final draft. I didn’t like the one big long page that the computer seemed to provide. I didn’t like how the first draft morphed into the second, which morphed into the final. I missed paper.

Until yesterday it had been a long time since I’d handwritten anything longer than a grocery list. My hand-writing has not improved with disuse. I kept worrying that I’d lose marks for spelling because even though I was spelling everything correctly, I could see how it might look wrong. When I write longhand I tend to “slur” the last few letters in each word. I tried to write as neatly as I could, but after two and a half hours of writing, my right hand was not cooperating very well.

One more thing: I’m very particular about pens. I find it frustrating to write with a pen I don’t like. And I would never choose to write with a pencil. Pencils are for drawing. I don’t even use a pencil for crossword puzzles or income tax.

But you know what? In spite of all my complaining about the tools, I actually enjoyed writing the tests. I think I’m ready for a job.

6 comments to Writing tools

  • They made you do writing tests in pencil?! Wow, that’s a useful simulation of the real-world working environment of writers and editors.

    Perhaps if there’s another round they can get you to do paste-up using a mechanical waxer and a linotype.

  • As a math major at university I would love writing exams where I could methodically solve problems and proofs in detail… but your post reminds me of writing essay exams in other-than-math courses. I would spill all thoughts of a subject onto the page and then cross out vigorously, draw arrows, add notes and organize after the fact. The page was a mess when I was finished. If I had time I would put a big X through the answer and rewrite it.

    Hope a job comes soon. You’re the BEST writer I know!

  • When word processors and word processor programs came into use, I still wrote things out long hand first. I couldn’t let go. I got through college in the late 70’s that way and I was used to it.
    Now, I can’t imagine all that extra writing. I like being aboe to compose as I go along and make changes instantaneously. It’s funny what we get used to.

  • The other day I needed to attend a meeting in the auditorium here at work, and had to scrounge up a pen and paper to take notes. Usually I participate in meetings right at my desk and take notes right onto my PC, so I was a little lost at first. And once I started blogging, my hand-written journal fell by the wayside. Email means no more hand-written letters, too, which is too bad. I have boxes of letters written by my ancestors to each other, when that was the only economical way to keep in touch. They are a treasure trove. Will our great-grandchildren read our old blogs? Will those old blogs even exist once we are gone?

  • I hope you get the job you want

  • Pencils, ma’am, are ideal for far more than drawing. And good ones feel less skritchy on that cross-paper glide than the average Bic or or those popular (but finicky) Pilot Hi Tecpoints.

    There are in fact networks of vintage pencil connoisseurs out there, still nostalgic about their favorite no-longer-made writing sticks, and dedicated to finding the last stashes of ’em so they can continue with butter-smooth writing for as long as possible.

    One such treasure hoard turns out to be at the Boston Public Library