I’m revising my manuscript at the moment, and rather than do it on screen I decided to take a different perspective: I printed out the manuscript and inserted the pages into a ring binder (note to self: add page numbers before printing next time).
What’s interesting is how much I’m enjoying this stage (which I’d dreaded): I think partly it’s just because I’m so grateful to be here, but also it’s because I’ve gone back to the way of working that used to be so familiar to me (I trained as a desk editor surrounded by teetering piles of manuscripts and proofs). There’s a wonderful physicality about working with paper and pen. It’s not bricklaying or anything, of course, but the text you’re working with has substance, materiality: you can mess around the edges of it with annotations, you can strike bits out and circle other bits and mark where they should move, but the text still stays there, legible through it all.
It’s perhaps one of the reasons print books still appeal to us so much: the Thingness of them, and also the sense of progressing through them, as gradually more and more pages lie to the left of the page we’re working through. On screen, the words slide by without friction. When you really want to grapple with them, it’s good to pin them down on paper first.