Putting pencil to paper.

Sometimes I have a problem typing.

It’s not fingers fumbling over the wrong keys and it’s not that I type slowly (there was a time when I actually liked using the typing programme Mavis Beacon), but it’s just sometimes I can’t write on the screen.

In university, I wrote my papers by hand, sitting at a coffee shop with a stack of journals and text books beside me and a legal pad of paper in front of me. I’d start writing in green, switch to blue, maybe try using a pencil for an hour. The trick was to use different sizes and styles of pens so that your hand didn’t cramp up. Why write the first draft of a 50-page undergraduate project on Italian press coverage of the 2006 Torino Olympics by hand (okay, it was 42 after you subtracted the references, which were most definitely only done on the computer)? In part because I needed to be in a coffee shop, away from distractions of the Internet, the television and, just as important, the refrigerator. Yes, when procrastinating, make another batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. But if you’re at Starbucks and you know exactly how many fat grams are in a white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookie (27), you quickly stop eating and start writing.

But it’s also that I tend to spell out ideas better on paper than I do on the screen. On the screen, it’s typing one word, only to hit the backspace key to replace it with another. On paper, it’s thinking of the right word before writing it down. Economy in a sense (and when you do end up transcribing it onto the computer, it’s like making your first edit).

Okay, this isn’t always entirely practical and no, I’m not trying to say that I can’t write on a computer, it’s just that for some of the most important things, at least the crucial bits are worked on with paper and pen(cil), if not the whole damn thing.

Oh, everyone and their Moleskin (I can hear someone saying this now). But I promise you it’s not like that. This isn’t literary sketching, perching on a bar stool, sipping espresso and jotting down a conversation I overheard. This is full on writing, sentences and paragraphs, pages and pages until my handwriting becomes so looped and cursive that I can’t read it (by the way, last month I learned the word for “turn into” in Chinese, which is 变成, pinyin is “biancheng”). Continue reading



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Petals from the Sky

Here is my latest review for the Asian Review of Books, Petals from the Sky by Mingmei Yip.

Romance books aren’t really my thing, but if they’re yours then check out Ms. Yip’s newest book, which goes with a cool mash-up of romance + Asian fiction. A Buddhist nun in waiting, a hot man and a jaunt through Paris…

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