Here is a guest post by prolific Las Cruces writer John Duncklee, who is the author of Disowned and 16 other published novels.
Ode To The Yellow Pad
We marvel at what we can do with the computer: cut and paste, send over the internet, correct mistakes and typos with ease and without erasing six carbon copies, choosing fonts and sizes with the touch on a mouse. The list goes on and on.
But, remember The Yellow Pad? No writer was without one or a pencil or pen to write on it. Fifty lined sheets begged to be written upon. With a pencil changes could be made with ease using an eraser. Erasers came in varied sizes shapes and materials. All worked well on The Yellow Pad.
And remember when you filled that last sheet, and took a clean Yellow Pad from the shelf to continue writing. That was always a good feeling of accomplishment. It kept you going in a way. You never counted the pages because you knew there were fifty. What did a Yellow Pad cost then? Twenty cents, thirty. Hell’s fire, pencils were only a nickel, and if you had a good pocket-knife, and knew how to use it, you didn’t need to buy a sharpener. With a pencil and a Yellow Pad you were in business. There were even editors that accepted some writers’ manuscripts written on Yellow Pads. Alas, I wasn’t one of those. I had to transfer those words to a blank white sheet of paper with a typewriter using two fingers. I had to borrow the typewriter. But, you had to be very careful. Corrections meant six carbon copies to erase and change. And, it took a different kind of eraser to obliterate typewriter ink. It never looked the same either.
My storage room has four large boxes filled with Yellow Pads. Every pad is filled. I know there are two non-fiction books and two novels in those boxes. And, they have been published. But, I’ll never toss away those Yellow Pads. Should I ever need more storage space, I’ll build another room, but the Yellow Pads with all that writing filling their fifty pages each will stay at rest. They deserve that much.
I stared at the computer for a month before I dared turn on the switch. It sat on a table so I could step around it to sit at my desk where I could write on my Yellow Pads. Of course, in time I started learning how to work the damn thing, but I realized soon that it meant learning more than what happened when I pushed different keys, I had to learn a completely new language. It was both spoken and written. It was also baffling, (and still is). In this new language a series of letters not making a word meant something important. I was only used to knowing that NRA meant National Recovery Act back in The Great Depression, and WPA meant Works Progress Administration, also in that time period. I also knew that WWA means Western Writers of America. I had no clue that RTF means Rich Text Format and I still haven’t a clue as to what Rich Text Format is or does. That list also goes on and on
But there have been plenty of laughs along the road to learning how to use a computer. In one book I changed the name of a character from Jack Ryland to Jason Roland. Pushing the command button on the keyboard along with the “f” key the “find” window popped into view. Again, with my two fingers I typed in Jack, clicked on “replace all” and then wrote in Jason in the space devoted to the resultant desired change. Satisfied and smug with my accomplishment, I hit the “replace all” command oval. Almost immediately, (another mind boggling characteristic of computers is their speed of execution), I saw the announcement that thirteen Jacks had been changed to Jason. Wow, that was easy, and I sat back I my chair in wonderment. Later, as I read through the manuscript I came upon “Jason rabbit”, then “pump Jason”, and even “Jason pot”. Bewildered by this I soon realized just how I had accomplished such a miracle. I also learned that important lesson that computers do exactly what you tell them to do. I also thought back and said to myself, ”This would never have happened on The Yellow Pad."
The other day I went to the office supply store to buy some toner for my printer. They don’t call it ink anymore. It is “toner”. No matter why I go to the office supply store I always end up strolling around to see what might be new. So I passed by the stacks of cases containing printer paper. I still had half a case. Beyond there was a shelf, part of which held The Yellow Pads. There was a stack of them all shrink-wrapped into bundles of six. The price wasn’t twenty cents per pad anymore, but the price was reasonable in my mind. I stood there a while thinking about those Yellow Pads. I couldn’t help myself a minute more. I reached down and grabbed a bundle and put it in the cart with my toner. As I wheeled the cart next to the cashier’s stand I thought once again about buying those Yellow Pads. One never knows when the power will go off or how long it will stay off. I patted the bundle of Yellow Pads as I put them on the counter.