Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ode To The Yellow Pad

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


John Duncklee

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.



Michael Swickard said...

Nicely done John. Made me smile and reflect that I still use yellow pads for all of my writing starts. Guess it marks me as a oldster.

There is something that makes me feel good about sitting in a noisy resturant writing on a yellow pad lost in my story with a hot cup of coffee.

Helen Ginger said...

I still use pads, although I tend to get other colors besides yellow, like blue or mottle blue and pink. I also like to get spiral notebooks in different colors - each color denoting a particular project. Thanks for the memories.

Straight From Hel

Carter said...

I always carry a yellow pad on my travels, and once wrote what I think is probably my best short story lying in bed in a hotel room in Quebec City. With a fountain pen.

He doesn't like the typewriter much, though, and I agree--computers are better by a long shot. And that from a guy who probably has written more words on an old Underwood than on a PC and used to use a stick pen.

A nice essay. Thanks, Bob.

Helen Ginger said...

Bob, I stopped by again today to tell you I gave you the "N" in the BINGO Beautiful Blog award.

Straight From Hel

Bob Sanchez said...

Why, thank you, Helen.

Karen Walker said...

I love my yellow pads. This made me smile the whole way thru. There's just some kind of writing that has to start with pen and ink on paper. Thanks for sharing.

The Old Silly said...

Enjoyed this post. Gave me a fit of nostalgia. And yes, I STILL carry a yellow pad around in my briefcase. I jot down ideas when they come to me. Otherwise, if I don't, the Half-Heimers kicks in and the Old Silly fergets stuff. ;)

Marvin D Wilson

Import2sage said...

Its really very useful . . .

Rose City Reader said...

Great essay!

I had to laugh, though, because we lawyers still go through forests of yellow pads. I don't think any of us could practice law without them, computers or no computers.

Tom Redmond said...

While on an airplane in May 1995 an idea flew in the window - I had my yellow pad and pencil at the ready, wrote the idea down and started a business based on this idea - now in our 14th year. Still use these pads and instruct others on their proper use.

Best wishes,
Tom Redmond

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