Every few years, I find myself compelled to set out a few hours of my day and a few empty trash bags for the task of cleaning out my stacks of papers. These aren’t old letters or financial records, but rather old manuscripts, research articles, pages from my commonplace books, and handwritten versions of poems and stories.
Although I do the vast majority of my work with a computer keyboard, I find myself accumulating a giant pile of printed pages. This isn’t due to any misplaced nostalgia for the age of the typewriter or the inkwell, but rather due to my particular style of writing and editing. I know I’m not the only writer who finds it hard to avoid working on paper – many people find this method handy for a number of reasons.
Mainly, having printed pages lets me get a visual handle on my writing that I just can’t get on a computer screen. This is extremely helpful when I’m editing a long piece of fiction or a poem that won’t fit on one page. I’m constantly surprised at how much easier it can be to skip from section to section without losing my place when I use a printed draft rather than editing the digital document. I can scribble notes, put brackets around passages, and mark potential new homes for misplaced sections in a single step, and a slip of my fingers never deletes text or puts me on a screen I’ve never seen before.
Just as I can’t shake my preference for working with a hard copy of my drafts, many other writers have a strong preference for going entirely digital with their works. This is all well and good – different learning and working styles require different methods of reviewing and editing. However, if you find yourself frustrated with the limitations of digital editing, then you might try doing it the old-fashioned way for a productive change of pace.