Monday, September 5, 2011

Going Primitive

As students of the digital age, the temptation is strong for us to want to draft our essays directly onto the computer. The instructor said she wants the final draft typed up, 12-point font, double-spaced with 1-inch margins. Mom and Dad dropped a stack of bills for that shiny new laptop with the latest word processing software on it, so you might as well use it, right?

Absolutely. The word processor is no doubt the single greatest invention since the wheel, offering a healthy alternative to deciphering the chicken scratchings of incoming freshmen writers so the instructor's eyesight stays in tact for a few more years and his sanity for almost as long. But should it be the first thing we go to when we get that assignment sheet? No, I think not.

Once upon a time, before the dawn of the Apple II or the advent of the typewriter, people used to write. Using everything from fountain pen to pencil, quill to chisel, folks would write their composition assignments using the most basic of implements.

Has physical writing fallen out of practice? Sadly, yes. Is it obsolete? Good heavens, no.

Maybe you're sitting at lunch with your notebook and pen sketching out a rough plan for your next essay. Great, you're nearly there. Don't pull out that silvery Macbook you got for graduation just yet. Leave that aside and do the unthinkable: write your draft.

The very thought might send your writing hand into a painful cramp, but trust me, there's something to this. Since high school and maybe even junior high school, we've been trained to not only type but type at blinding speeds. Instant messaging our friends at other universities has only made our fingers more limber to the point where we might be typing faster than we can produce thoughts.

By drafting your essay using pen and paper, you sever that connection between the computer and your brain that forces your fingers into hyperspeed. You are more careful and deliberate. You're reading it in your head as you write each word. You catch things that you won't have to catch when proofreading later. Most importantly, you have no Facebook or Youtube to distract you in a spiral college-ruled notebook.

We've fallen into the ease of composing assignments directly to the page, eliminating any extra steps so that we may maximize our free time to work on the multitude of assignments in our other classes. It only makes sense. But if you draft your essay by hand before your hands touch a keyboard, you'll cut down on time in the future when proofreading it. Why, you might even have a more perfect paper to turn in than if you hadn't written out with primitive pen and paper.

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