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Give me a paper with lines. I don’t care if it’s a steno pad, or a sheaf of loose sheets, or one of those wire-bound, wide-ruled school notebooks that we bought by the dozen for junior high school. I’ve even been known to write on quadrille pads, which is a challenge all its own. Just try to have free-flowing ideas when every letter fights to contain itself inside a little box!

You’ll hear writers talk about the agony of being faced with a blank page. Well, if they mean a truly blank page, I can understand the frustration. For one thing, my handwriting is not the best. I blame it on old age these days; I don’t remember what my excuse was thirty or forty years ago. At any rate, when I put pencil to paper, and the paper offers me no direction at all, I end up with either doodles of a totally unartistic bent, or words that slope upwards with a rising inflection as I go, as if every sentence is a question. This isn’t too bad if my reader tends to peruse the work with his head at a cocky angle, but how many of those do you find in a day?

I’ve also noticed that the font size of my cursive writing diminishes with the number of words on the paper and things get crowded at the right edge of the page. By the third paragraph or so I need to hand out a magnifying glass with each copy of the story.

Okay, I know that things are not the same since we do it all on computers now. There’s not a doodle in sight, and the sentences march on in a stately fashion. But I have to admit that sometimes I haul out the old notebook with its pale blue guides running predictably across the page, sharpen my Ticonderoga No. 2, and wait with confidence for the words to come. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But just the act of sitting there, pencil poised, gives me pleasure

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.

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