Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DFW on writing by hand

David Foster Wallace liked using pens and typewriters:

Writing by hand and typewriter not only brings out the best in me — it brings out stuff I never would have dreamed was there. . . . It is this — not improvement, but transfiguration of the contents of my head that I am addicted to. It is astonishing when it happens — magical — and it simply doesn’t happen on a computer.

From a letter to Sven Birkerts, quoted in D. T. Max’s Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (2012). Ellipsis in the original.
Related reading
A page from “the earliest substantial draft” of Infinite Jest (New Yorker)

comments: 2

Unknown said...

What a timely post, Michael. I wish I could describe the long faces that my students wore this morning, our first day of class, when I told them not only that electronic devices are unwelcome in composition but also that we'd be doing first drafts on legal pads for every essay. I'm excited to share this passage with them and hopeful that it will generate some discussion about how we write. I think that their frowns, as a middle school principal might say, will be turned upside down when they see the good results that DFW describes.

Michael Leddy said...

Legal pads — are they some new sort of tablet?

I haven’t required drafts in a long time, but I encourage students, always, incessantly, to try planning and writing by hand. They are always happy to see the difference it makes. I think your students will be smiling too.