Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writing Longhand

Creative Commons License photo credit: gregwake

I don't know if any of you noticed, but that progress bar on the side hasn't moved in a while. A long while. When April - with its Script Frenzy, A to Z Challenge and finals - rolled around, I stopped writing White Echoes to do everything else. Since then, I've only put a big 3000 words on the WIP, top.

Every time I sit down to write, I stare at the screen and feel completely disconnected.

It's been too long. These characters are light-years away, and even if I had Jacob Wonderbar's spaceship, I feel I couldn't cover the distance between us.

Except... as a writer, I always feel it's a terrible waste not to use a spare hour. When all I have to distract myself is a pen and a notebook - no blogs, no forums, no twitter - there aren't many other options than writing.

Writing longhand.

Here's where the magic comes into play: the moment I grabbed that pen and set the words on the page, I knew what to write.

My brain felt on fire (and soon, so did my hands) but I didn't care.

The pen let me do on paper what I struggled to do on the screen.

So perhaps I'm a bit old school. It's surprising, considering how much I love my Kindle and my two laptops and twitter and the interwebs. It doesn't change how I feel about the back and forth movement of my pen, the sliding of my hand on paper and the increasingly messy handwriting on the page, as the story takes over and I can't write quite fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

I love it.

I love it like an old flame that visits every other year, without warning, just when you need passion and abandon. It's messy and it hurts and afterward you have to clean it all up (retype) but damn, you don't regret what you did.

I'm getting carried away here. The point is, the next time you are stuck, take a pen (so you can't erase, only scratch off) and an empty notebook. Set the pen down on the blank page. Move your hand to form letters.


Announcement: For the NaNoWriMo participants among you, today is the Office of Letters and Light's Summer Donation Drive. This drive will serve to pay Camp NaNoWriMo (which provides encouragements and wordcount progress tools any time of the year) and the NaNoWriMo website's servers (as in, move them elsewhere so they don't crash in 2011).

There are cool prizes for those who donate -- exclusive posters, bumper stickers, etc. -- and you can check the details for Camp NaNo here, see the poster/sticker here, or donate at the store. The store will tell you what you can get, depending on how much you donate.

Now I really want November to come back. Talking about NaNo does that to me.


  1. I was just thinking this very same thing. I need to log off, power down, and hide away in my Writing Room with my favorite pens and oodles of looseleaf pages. I. Must. Write. Soon. And clearly, sitting down at the keyboard is NOT the right answer!

  2. I still do a lot of writing by hand, even though my handwriting is terrible and my hand starts hurting after about two paragraphs.

    So there must something magical about it.

    Plus, any activity that doesn't involve looking at a screen adds good variance to my day.

  3. I'm reminded of DEAD POET'S SOCIETY when Robin Williams stood on his desk and told his students to do the same. He wanted them to change the way they looked at things.

    95% of my work starts in pencil (I prefer friction to flow, but I still scratch out rather than erase), because it helps me maintain a closer connection to the words.

  4. I absolutely love writing by hand and my first drafts are always written in ink. It's liberating to step away from a computer.

  5. TL: The keyboard's problem is that it's one click away from the internet.

    Hektor: I think this ties in with the post about menial works. There is something methodic and repetitive about writing that really puts the brain in a special, creative place.

    Watcher: I tend to prefer pencil, too, but I'm very quick to grab an eraser. Perhaps if I hid all of them away, I might get away with a normal pen, too. ;)

  6. Miss Cole: Wow, entire first drafts? You're more stubborn than I am. The thought of typing all those words is enough to make me keep it to a few pages at a time!

  7. I love writing by hand for the reasons you stated. I think because I'm not so distracted by the flashy bright lights of the internet I get more done on paper and I tend to go deeper creatively. BUT I gots to have the computer for edits. What would I do without cut and paste?

  8. I too like pencil, though I constantly break the lead.

    I like to attribute that to the strength of my prose.

  9. I'm with Miss Cole. I love my fountain pen and Aurora black bottle ink. Combined with reams and reams of lined paper, it's magical. Plus my inky fingers are a constant reminder that I am working!

    I also love the internets...but there are too many cool writers on here! Distracting!

  10. Well, Elizabeth, I'm impressed with you, too. :)

  11. I have also found that the creativity flows more freely when I am writing longhand than when I stare at a computer screen. When I write on the computer, I get this huge sense that I have to go back and fix the words until they are perfect. In a way, longhand is more permanent, even if it is with a pencil. Which I totally switched to recently. My paper looks so much neater without all those scribbles, because when I write for a while,I tend to forget letters and words. And forget cursive, after about five pages, my script looks like lines and scribbles that I can barely decipher sometimes.

    Although, I am really jealous of Elizabeth and her fountain pen. Always wanted one of those!

  12. I love writing longhand! The story definitely flows better. I write on a computer all day for work, and I think the pen and notebook help me escape when I'm working on my own stuff.

  13. cookie: Ah! At some point I have a hard time reading myself, too, and yet I've got a fairly readable handwriting. I'm the other way, though: the faster I write, the more I use cursive (and the my writing leans to the side).

    Nicole: A change of scenery can definitely help with the inspiration. That's one think I like with writing on a laptop. I can change rooms if I can no longer stand my room.

  14. I couldn't agree more. Whenever I'm stuck, all I need is a pen and a notebook. I wonder why I can't get that same connection from typing? I think it's more than just a change of pace for me. Maybe a computer feels like too much pressure to be perfect, and writing longhand feels more free.

  15. Yes, I was just thinking about this the other day. About how free I feel when writing with pen and paper as opposed to staring at a blinking (menacing) cursor.

  16. Claudie, I do that too! My writing evolution- pg 1. neat handwriting. pg 2.5. messy handwriting. pg 5-7. cursive. pg 10. illegible scribbles.

  17. A bit late but WTH. I write everything long hand! EVERYTHING. I can't imagine doing it any other way. In fact I named my blog Handwritten in honor of it. I write with pencil so I can erase. When it's done it get's typed then printed out and rewrites are done (you guessed it) with a pencil too :)