Composition Space without Exposition
I used to be in a writing group, there were three of us (I’ll name one F and the other K because they may or may not want me writing about them publicly), all women, professors in our mid-twenties to early thirties, with at least one book published, and drastically different writing styles, and it was the radical range in style that made our group function: there was no secret animosity, no competition, we read and respected each other’s writing, worked towards doing what we wanted to be doing. This group functioned how a writing group ought to function, at least to me. Then, of course, as things go with the academy, we scattered. K got a TT job. F and I stayed put in South Bend. But the group dynamic wasn’t the same, since we lost 1/3 of our membership, and eventually, I left too: up north, with my partner, who’s here for grad school, and I’ll start grad school in the fall too, in Geography, a move away from writing entirely.
But back to my story, I tend to wander: We used writing group time to “workshop,” absolutely, but between stories, we’d talk about process. Both K and F write primarily by computer, though they always have a notebook handy, in case they get ideas. Maybe, let’s call it, a hybrid type of writing, relying mostly on laptop. I write by hand, usually a whole draft or most of a draft, but I transfer to computer every day or three. We talked about that for a while, the difference between these two modes of composition, and—I’m getting to my point, slowly, but I assure you, I’m getting there—then, we talked about paper.
We all write in Moleskines, typical, cliché, we can admit that. Here’s the difference though: F writes on blank paper, K on lined, and I write on graph paper.
Now this may seem anal or pedestrian (two very different words to be juxtaposed using “or”), but I’d argue there’s something to be said about these variations in paper. F made the argument that the blank page is “freeing,” that is, she isn’t “confined” by lines. K made the argument that she doesn’t really pay attention to the lines. (Full disclosure: I don’t remember exactly what K said about this. I could be completely wrong. I do, however, know I had a few conversations about what F thinks on this subject, South Bend is a quiet town, this was our entertainment.) I argued the blank page is anything but “freeing”: it “confines” with its openness, it’s deceiving. Graph/squared paper, on the other hand, gives the illusion of order, but there’s more latitude to movement.
So, the paperness of paper: Does it matter? What are your thoughts?