My 21st Century Pencil

So I’m a pencil person. I love pencils. I wear them down, sharpen them, and read entire books about them. (The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, by Henry Petroski.) But when you write a novel longhand with a pencil, you must then sit down and type type type the material into the computer for hours. It’s my least favorite part of writing (after getting depressing reviews.)

But I’ve found a solution…accidentally. I dipped my toe into the World of Apple by buying an iPad. Started to attend the weekly iPad class at Best Buy.  And one day Apple expert Aya came to class and told us all about Nebo.

I knew I had to give this a try, since it might save me from hours of typing. I downloaded Nebo. Bought an Apple pencil. Got started.

Fell in love. I use the iPad as my legal pad and the Apple “pencil” as my pencil. I’ve written 60 pages of my new novel, and have only spent about 45 minutes at the computer.

With Nebo, the program only responds to the pencil, so you may comfortably rest your hand on the screen.

When I’ve filled the screen I just scroll down and keep going. And every few screens or so I stop, tap the screen twice, and my scribbles turn into typed text. MAGIC! (I know it’s not magic, but…it’s MAGIC!)

Nebo isn’t perfect. I send the Word doc to my laptop and must spend a few minutes cleaning it up. My “I” always come out as the number 1, so I’m going to have to be neater. And sometimes I find interesting phrases like “spurned bean” instead of “spurned beau,” or “repressed a urine” instead of “repressed a grimace.” But Nebo is smart; you can watch it think. As you write, the text appears along one line. This morning Nebo thought I wrote “skzyed up,” but then it realized that made no sense so it changed it to “stepped up” with no input from me but enthusiastic encouragement.

The act of writing on a computer screen is, of course, entirely different than writing with a graphite pencil on paper. There is little resistance, which requires that you slow down so your handwriting doesn’t become gibberish. My handwriting isn’t that great—I’ve developed some odd habits over the years, but Nebo somehow makes sense of most of what I write. (Make a mistake? Just scribble over it and the whole thing disappears.)

Writing with pencil has its own magic—paper has bumps and ridges we can’t see and you generate heat when moving a pencil across the paper. This heat melts the graphite down into the bumps and ridges.

Because of that, I’m not giving up my graphite pencils. I find their sacrifice honorable as they melt into the paper for my benefit. But with my iPad Pro, my Apple pen, and Nebo… I have all sorts of magic choices.

5 thoughts on “My 21st Century Pencil”

  1. Wow! That sounds like a very cool thing. If I wasn’t addicted to Android everything, I’d give it a try. Or maybe I should grab my partner’s IPad and try it. It’s just amazing what technology can do now! Thanks for sharing.

    • I am SO in love with this thing, which probably means it’ll stop working next week. (That’s the dour Norwegian in me speaking.) But I’ve written over 60 pages since the GCLS, and hardly spent any time at the computer.

  2. I’m a pen and paper person as well. So this may be something to try. But I laughed at what the autocorrect gave you. I’ve been, on occasion, using the voice recognition app on my Mac Airbook and I get some pretty crazy stuff. The cleanup is tedious, but transcribing what you’ve written in longhand is worse.


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The Big Pivot

About Me

After twenty-five years on the farm, I’m adjusting to the adventures of city life. Part of that adjustment is figuring out what I want to write about now, since sheep are no longer part of my daily life. I’m challenging myself creatively by painting with pastels and playing the ukelele as I seek my new writing path.

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