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  • Writer's pictureMary Bergida DeLuca

The Power of Paper: See Your Writing Anew

Photo: Liza/Spilling papers/flickr CC 2.0. Filters applied.

“Here we go again,” I think. Dan, from Tech, is in my office for the second time this week trying to connect my laptop to the English department’s printer.

“Let’s try another test print,” he says blinking inches from my laptop screen. He clicks print and shuffles down the hall to the printer. Soon he returns, his bristle of gray mustache and perfectly round glasses make him look like a character from the comics.

“Here ya go.”

He hands me a warm sheet of paper. It’s the first page from the pilot of a historical dramedy I’ve been writing, for months now.

“Oh! Thanks.”

I hold it awkwardly, sure he has no idea what he’s handed me. My pilot must have been the first file in my “recents” folder and the first thing he spotted for a test print. Here is a sheet of captured ideas — some that had come to me while strolling along the water front — others while walking circles in my living room. These ideas have been assembled into words, sentences, and scenes on my screen. And now physically sit on the page in my hands. “This screenplay is real,” I think oddly. Somehow just having words pour out of my fingers make them still seem ephemeral. Holding them, incarnates them.

I feel the crisp of paper. “I wasn’t thinking of printing you.”

I glance at the blue recycle bin under my desk, but instead of chucking the sheet of paper in, I tuck it into my leather folio, along with a stack of students journals I need to review. I can print the rest of the screen play back at my apartment. But why hadn’t I thought to print my draft at all? In reality, I’m so close to having a full draft — maybe just 5 pages away from the final page count. And yet, I have been feeling stuck when attempting to eek out the final scenes.

Once home, I look over the first sheet of my pilot and with a favorite pen, the one with mint colored ink, I start marking it up. Move this. Take out that word. Add “Madame” here. I feel like I’m seeing these lines for the first time. It’s almost as if I am giving feedback on a student paper.

Indeed, the digital age has certainly saved many trees and eliminated the stacks of paper our literary predecessors had to shuffle through, but sometimes we lose the feeling of having our work being “made flesh.” Words are like a casual relationship that can come or go on our computer screen.

Maybe spending time with a draft on the screen, versus engaging it on paper is similar to the difference between talking to a friend over the phone, versus cozying in for for a good chat over steaming cappuccinos.

Are you in a sticky place with a chapter, or a story, or a screen play too? What about printing out your manuscript, or even just a tricky page?

As I’m being reminded, annotating my own writing gives me distance, new eyes, and a physical participation that infuses new life into my writing.

My goal before the close of the week is this: print the rest of the pilot. And beyond that, I’m grateful for Dan, that tech guy, who probably really is a character in the comics — perhaps on the weekends — who unwittingly helped get me get unstuck.

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