How long have I been typing and not writing? It began in my parents’ basement. I was maybe three or four years old. As my older brother recalls it, I would wake him and ask him when we could go and “po-gam” on the Atari 800 tucked into the disused sauna’s anteroom in the basement. Programming consisted of transcribing code from COMPUTE! magazine onto cassette tapes and then playing the resulting games.
This exposure to keyboarding doesn’t let me claim to have learned QWERTY before cursive. I remember the trouble I had with our electric typewriter when I had to type a report in elementary school. But by middle school I was more comfortable with a word processor and a dot matrix printer than I would ever be with pen and paper. Thinking about it now, the comfort was both physical and psycological. My writing posture is awful. My grip on the instrument is painful. Frequent mistakes and edits quickly ruin the paper. Rearranging thoughts requires a laborious rewrite. Why would anyone prefer handwriting?
Yet today I write this by hand with a tablet and stylus. These are digital tools so I have the benefits of easy erasure and automatic handwriting recognition. I can lasso paragraphs and move them around. This hybrid writing mode is letting me explore the differences between typing and handwriting.
Knowing that I won’t heavily edit the text with a keyboard, I think harder before putting words on the page. Keystrokes are cheaper than strokes of the pen. My hope is that this practice will make me do more internal composition, planning out several sentences in advance. I might even take up outlining.