Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A distracted ramble

20080820 typecast

The irony of publishing a typo-laden first draft is not lost on me.


D. Loon said...

This brings to mind all the Neil Postman that I've read and cheered along to. In addition to your concerns I also wonder how study habits will fare with the constant lure of myspace and facebook to young students.

I'm also thinking that in 5 years we'll be looking forward to our daughter going to school . . .

mpclemens said...

This is certainly a generation of immediate-feedback junkies. No wonder half of them are medicated for ADD.

Take heart! Your little one may start school in six years, depending on her birthdate and your state's cutoff. Mine is six but just starting this year, thanks to a late summer birthday.

Elizabeth H. said...

I actually had this discussion with my dad the other day: we were wondering aloud if "rough drafts" have any meaning anymore. The way I was taught to write, you'd first come up with a basic outline (sometimes), then you'd write your paper/story/poem one time through in what could be a completely slapdash manner, just to get the ideas out any which way, and then in subsequent drafts you'd worry about getting the various elements into the proper order, adding detail, eliminating extra words and sentences, and generally tidying up the original thoughts. I still think it's the best way to write -- and it's part of why I love the typewriter, which makes it easy for me to let go and let the first draft be instead of endlessly polishing my prose and getting bogged down with one piece instead of getting the whole story down.

But with kids currently doing almost all writing in a digital form, the rough draft process no longer truly exists. I honestly wonder what is taught in current English classes. Do they even describe drafting anymore?

Strikethru said...

I totally confess that all school work I did on a typewriter was first-draft material. I didn't bother rewriting work until the word processor came along. All those folks who used elaborate index cards and outlines with typewriters impress me indeed. I'm lazy.

I'll tell you what, my youth wasn't anything to write home about, but I am sure the hell glad I didn't waste it on Facebook and Twitter.

Olivander said...

Amen to you, Mike, and to all the comments thus far. Though I confess to not doing a whole heck of a lot of revising (most of my papers were written mere hours before they were due), I think contemporary students have come to believe that performing a task once equates completion. And I suspect that the first-in-last-out computer process mindset has something to do with that. Students are emulating computer logic, where grey areas and the concept of revision fail to come into play.

They also believe that if it is not on the Internet, then it doesn't exist. Had I followed through on my initial plan to become an English teacher, I would insist that at least one cited reference per paper come from an honest to goodness library. Much of the information to be found on the Internet is simply permutations of the same source material. Finding three sources for a fact means little when each source is repeating the same error that was included in the original source material. But that's a whole 'nother rant.

Duffy Moon said...

Agreeing with cstanford on the Neil Postman comparison. Every kid should be forced to read Postman, at some point in HS/College.

Regarding re-typing:
One of the most frequently-asked questions I heard during last year's NaNoWriMo was "But how would you submit it for publication?! You'd have to re-type the whole thing into a PC!"

First of all: I'm not likely to be submitting *anything* for publication. And if I did, I wouldn't submnit something that hadn't been re-typed, likely multiple times, in whatever format. Someone who is unwilling to retype a story to get it into shape is likely to have a story no one will ever read. If you're not willing to take the time to re-type (even a straight, no-changes re-type), what other errors are you too lazy to fix?

mpclemens said...

In defense of drafting, I passed along a link to Lamott's Sh*tty First Drafts essay (PDF file.) It's an excellent read, and concisely gets to the point I am fumbling around.

I'm very much looking forward to the typed NaNo this year, because it is sure to be imperfect, and the temptation to just "clean it up a bit" will be far greater when it's on paper than on disk.

Olivander, Internet sources give my mother fits, generally because the students don't know how to credit sources. Material from books needs to be typed in, but 'Net sources can be cut-and-paste right on in.

Elizabeth H. said...

I borrowed Lamott's Bird by Bird from the library awhile back and ended up being too busy to finish it before it had to be returned. Thanks for the taste, and the reminder!

I will say this in defense of technology: although I think computers are poor first-draft tools, they do make the final editing process far simpler. It's wonderful to be able to add a word here or delete a word there, move paragraphs and scenes around at the touch of a button, and save copies in a dozen locations for safety purposes.

I'm a terribly imperfect luddite.

mpclemens said...

I would never prepare anything for submission on a typewriter, not even an electronic one, although this is in part because I cannot stand the sluggish feel of those machines, always typing a millisecond or more slower than a "real" machine.

That said, I agree with the sentiment that a computer is a word processor, but a typewriter is a thought processor. The early draft(s) should not be written on anything featuring Mr. Delete Key, the bane of revisionists.

I'm planning on typing several drafts of this year's NaNo just so I can edit on paper. I hope to not be moving paragraphs on the computer, because by that point they should be in the right place.

We'll see how my determination holds up come December 1. At most I'm planning on scanning my pre-revision first draft and running it through OCR to get my NaNo word count, but that's it.

speculator said...

Having finished high school in the early '80s, I was part of that "evolutionary" process that straddled handwriting, typing, and PCs. What I wound up developing (continuing this into grad school in 2000) was to print out drafts, correct them in colored pencils, and go back to my computer. Occasionally I typed papers on my typewriter, working the same tactile way with red and blue pencils and some time to actually "handle" the papers (and index cards). It's a reflective process- almost a conversation with knowledge.

I guess there's something to be said for doing things one's own way (especially if it works), no matter the sideways glances. Now my typewriter (which I continue using) in my office is an attention-grabber, and has even "converted" some of my visitors.

mpclemens said...

speculator, I was in that same era, seeing the "typing" class be replaced with "keyboarding" in high school, and growing up right at the cusp of technological change. I sometimes blame that for the hoarding that I'm doing now. To think that in just over 30 years I've had the experience of both playing on a top-of-the-line punch-card machine and a top-of-the-line iPhone... the rate of change is staggering. But thirty years in Typewriter Time just meant new paint colors and maybe a body style change.