Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Neil Simon and the legal pad

with 2 comments

Neil Simon

I wrote my early plays at the typewriter because it was what writers looked like in His Girl Friday…But my back started to get so bad from bending over a typewriter eight hours a day, five or six days a week that I couldn’t do it anymore, so I started to write in pads. Then a curious thing happened. I was in England and found that they have pads over there with longer pages and thinner spaces between the lines. I liked that because I could get much more on a single page. At a single glance I could see the rhythm of the speeches. If they’re on a smaller page with wide spaces you don’t get a sense of the rhythm. You have to keep turning.

So, I write in these pads. Sometimes I write on both sides of the page, but I always leave myself lots of room to make notes and cross things out. I’ll write about three pages, then go to the typewriter and type that out. Then the next day I’ll read those three pages again and maybe not like them and go back to the notebook—write it out, make changes, and then retype it. The typing is boring for me, but I can’t use a word processor. It feels inhuman. It seems to me that every script comes out of a computer looking like it was written by the same person. My typewriter has its own characteristics, its own little foibles. Even there, I black out parts and write marginal notes. I’d like it to be neat, but I don’t like to send it to a professional typist because they invariably correct my purposely made grammatical errors. I try to write the way people speak, not the way people should speak.

Neil Simon, to The Paris Review

Written by nevalalee

February 21, 2016 at 7:30 am

2 Responses

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  1. My penmanship is so bad that I can’t read my own handwriting.


    February 21, 2016 at 10:10 am

  2. Thank you for this post. I enjoyed reading it. Legal pads are a fav of mine too. I take them everywhere I go so if writer’s inspiration comes my way I’ll be ready. :) Thank you again.- Kathy


    February 23, 2016 at 1:05 pm

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