Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Back in the 1980s, I worked for a decade as an editor and staff writer for the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Our publications included a quarterly newsletter/journal (the same one I guest-edited last year), a book series, and a series of working papers that we published ourselves. To publish the working papers, we reproduced a single-spaced typed version of each one; to send the same papers off to the printer to appear in book or journal form, we needed a double-spaced version of the manuscript to facilitate editing. Our wonderful secretaries, Rachel and Robin, who remain two of my closest friends on this earth, would have to type each paper first in a single-spaced version and then again in a double-spaced version.

Now, of course, with computers, this intensive, wearying labor can be accomplished with the click of a key. And nowadays everyone writes papers directly onto the computer, so nobody ever has to type up someone else's handwritten script.

And yet, I still write my books long hand and love writing long hand, even though it means typing up my handwritten script - and squinting so hard at my tiny, scribbly writing (more of a shorthand than actual cursive) to try to figure out what I actually wrote down on the page. This is the writing process that I've had for the last three decades of being a published children's book author, and I'm not about to change it now. And it's what allows me to write anywhere - say, on a couch outdoors in Cabo, overlooking the sea - while others are chained to electrical outlets.

But this week I have to type EIGHTY pages of manuscript. Usually I write a chapter, type it up, write another, type it up. I don't have eight whole chapters to type in a row. Although I do some rethinking and editing as I go - the chapters do start to seem unnecessarily long, as I have to type every word of every one - it's basically sheer manual labor.

Once in the philosophy department, the chair asked me to take on some particularly dreary task, and I told him, "It just sounds like such drudgery." He said, "Oh, but you're so good at drudgery!"

I guess I am. I know enough to break it up - type half a chapter, eat an English muffin slathered with butter and orange marmalade - type the second half of the chapter, go for a walk with Rowan. Type a bit more, and then close my eyes and think of how happy I was writing these chapters by hand in Cabo.

And then type some more. And type some more....

1 comment:

  1. You are absolutely one of my inspirations and heroes. Full stop.