I confused the actions of typing and writing for most of my life. Basically, I thought they were the same thing and I was always confused by people who still wrote longhand. Why add the extra step of converting your sloppy scribbles to a nicely typewritten manuscript when you could just bang it out straight onto the machine? I mean, why do you think they invented the word processor in the first place, man?
About ten years ago two things happened at roughly the same time that combined to get me to understand the difference between typing and writing. First, I turned forty and realized that the time had come to get serious about writing or the window would close. Second, I got the most boring job in the world. I’m talking about sitting in a cubicle all day, eight hours a day, with absolutely nothing to do. I had been hired, it turned out, for my expertise and was expected to be there when someone had a question – but no one ever did.
At first, I slowly began to go crazy. The boredom got to me in a bad way. Then I began to pace. I just walked the cubicle farm in random squares touching base at my desk to see if anyone had sent an email. Eventually, my mind began to roam those old pastures where story ideas go to graze.
I had been working on a science fiction novel for the last year or so but by “working” I mean typing for an hour a night with a cocktail close to my keyboard. I worked all day long, my head full of work stuff and my imagination tightly caged and pushed out of sight. Then, at night, I would sit down for an hour and try to be instantly creative again.
Pacing the cube farm day after day, I began to think of that science fiction story, its elements, its structure, the characters, the dialogue. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t do any actual typing at work and this turned out to be a real boon because I was forced to think about writing all day and then spend the evening writing down what I had come up with. This was the first time since college that the quality of my writing improved.
That science fiction novel didn’t go anywhere and neither did the next two novels I wrote, but I was getting better for a change. I could see it in my product. Two years later, I wrote the first Roy Doyle novel and got an agent. My first editorial acceptance since college.
These days when my life gets complicated and I fall back into that trap of combining typing and writing, I remind myself that I do have time to think about story during the day – on my commute, at lunch, after work, in the shower – and to keep my hands away from a keyboard until I know what I’m going to say.