Friday, February 15, 2008

Creative Composing

Composing is the term letterpress printers use for selecting and placing the moveable type in order to print some text. I like the way it distinguishes that unique activity from the typesetting that is done with a keyboard. I like the pun with composing music. I have posted before about the pleasure I take in the pace and physicality of choosing each lead letter and jigsawing together the white space between the text.

Lately I have been composing with type the way I will use a keyboard or pen and paper to compose new thoughts. I don't know quite what I'm going to say before I start pulling letters from their compartments. Last week I spent a whole afternoon composing and recomposing four phrases that I was making up as I went along. I finally took some proofs (some on paper bags, thanks to E's South Island foraging) to see how it all looked and then got distracted by the quality of the print. Letting the proofs lie scattered on a much used tabletop all week I have come to believe I must start again almost from scratch and change the words, the type size and the layout. This is not a disappointing thing to anticipate and I am looking forward to it with pleasure.

This is, of course, a terribly inefficient way to work, but then I am not terribly interested in efficiency when I am nurturing new inspiration. Efficiency is desirable when one is creating an edition, pursuing a deadline, or trying to make money. But my goal at the moment is coax the tiny sparks of creative thought into flickering flames, to allow the space and time for ideas to become fully themselves without being shaped by market forces. Having attempted that nurturing with keyboard and pen, I am now seeing what emerges when I dip these nascent ideas straight in the founts.

Such luxury! Such indulgence! I feel extraordinarily lucky that I have the freedom for such pleasurable play. There are other projects and circumstances on my horizon which will require efficient composing and printing and I will enjoy working within those constraints when the time comes. But right now I am loitering with delight in a backwater of creative composition.

No comments: