The keyboard is my friend. So is the pen.

I’m feeling the weekend a bit today. That happens some weekends, especially the ones where I move through it and do what needs to get done (mostly) but am left with a sense that there wasn’t any time left for me to do what I needed. And while I don’t beat myself up over it, it’s still a kind of a drain on the sense of vigor I’d usually experience when I can end the weekend with the laundry done and bathrooms cleaned.

Needing some inspiration for a post today, I paged through some of National Blog Posting Month’s prompts from earlier this month, and one of their questions, “when you write, do you prefer a keyboard or pen and paper?” took me back in my mind. Back to my seventh grade English teacher asking my parents if it might make sense for me to take a typing class — you know, way back in the last century, people used a monitorless keyboard that would process outputs on pieces of paper; look it up in a museum sometime — as a way for me to get all the ideas in my head out a little bit faster.

I never did take a typing class until starting high school. But baby, when I got into a groove, it was like words just poured out of my fingers! Sometimes my brain got a little too amped up, leading to the same incomplete thoughts typed neatly on a paper that most likely drove my seventh grade English teacher mad. The advent of computing has made the keyboard even more of an asset in organizing my thoughts and developing prose. (For instance, do you know if this paragraph appeared earlier or later in the piece? Unless you possess some pretty savvy tech skills, or mastered the Vulcan mind meld, you’ll never know, will you?)

The keyboard helps me exorcise all the really bad leads and cues I love to shake around in my mind, and even note an idea that I know I want to expand on later. It keeps a living list where nothing is necessarily crossed off, but expanded, refined, sometimes deleted. Some things I write may never be read or even viewed. But I write them anyway.

Yet for all my fondness towards this very instrument I’m now using to compose this piece, I’ll never stop loving – or using – a pen. Take, for example, holiday cards. We order our cards, with a little personalization on the inside, and our return address preprinted on the outside. But the address? We do not print out mailing labels to affix to the cards, even though there’s 110 of them to send. (I just got done editing the list for this year. So I’m not exaggerating.)

Just as a keyboard may let me quickly drain thoughts from my head to somewhere safer and to a medium where I can study and edit as needed, putting pen to a blank envelope or note card is a meditation. Drawing that line down to begin a salutation is like pressing the rewind button over the past year as I recall whether or not we’ve had a chance to see the addressee face-to-face, what’s new in their lives, and how they may celebrate their own holidays. By the time I’ve written the ZIP code, I’ll inevitably think of something I want to note in the card itself. Which I do with the same pen.

It means that addressing our holiday cards is not a one-night effort. I take a page from the weeks leading up to our wedding, when I’d sit down with a stack of 5 or 10 invitations and address a few each evening until the process was done. It certainly helps that our cards for this year are already delivered and waiting for me to go out and choose the shade of ink I want to use this year. So I can spend the coming weeks to address a few each evening, in a quiet sort of “auld lang syne.” Just me, a few envelopes, and a pen sitting under the light next to the recliner or sofa, swatting away the occasional helpful paw.

Writing with a pen forces you to take your time. I like that. In our times, where a letter may be delivered instantaneously thanks to electronic media, being forced to put thought to your words before you put pen to paper is a discipline we can all use. I shudder to think there may be a day where some early adopter declares pens to be dead. It makes me nervous when an acquaintance tells me they had to write something by hand and had to remind themselves how to write.

Having something witty, funny, or profound to say is important. But having more than one way to communicate it is even more critical. That’s why there’s room in my heart for both a keyboard and a pen.

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