But, as I worked through multiple drafts of my novels, keeping track of my notes, readers’ notes, feedback from my writers’ group, etc., I encountered a new problem. All these things have to be viewed through my laptop’s screen, a rectangle about eight inches by twelve inches.
When working in such a small aperture, one has no choice but to glance and switch. For instance, while editing a manuscript, one switches to another tab to glance at a spreadsheet that outlines the book and then switches back to the manuscript. One then switches to a file of readers’ notes, glances at it, and switches back to the document being edited. All this puts a lot of wear and tear on short-term memory.
Gradually, I started using paper. I wrote my notes on a legal pad so I could glance at them without having to switch anything on my screen. Then I printed out my spreadsheet so I could glance at it without having to switch. My viewing area expanded from that little rectangle on my laptop to my physical desktop.
The final frontier was printing a copy of the manuscript when it was time to do a read-through. Editing, annotating, deleting, and re-ordering happen much faster with a pen on paper. Word-processing software has made it possible to do all these things, but has not made it efficient. One has to think one’s way through menus and buttons. Again: wasted short-term memory.
Of course, I resisted this return to paper because for years I’d heard we should “save a few trees” by doing things digitally. Then it occurred to me: we can plant more trees. We cannot plant more of the things computers and phones are made of: petroleum and metals.