On Writing

Why I Write by Hand (Most of the Time)

I love to write by hand. I could end this post there—“because I love it, that’s all”—and call it a day, but that wouldn’t be the whole truth. It wouldn’t explain why I’m happy to pause to stretch my fingers or end up with a cramped wrist, and it wouldn’t paint the whole picture as to why I prefer to draft my fiction (novels included) by hand rather than on a computer. Since I’m a faster typist than I am a handwriter, this preference is especially perplexing. Yet, it is my preference. Here’s a list of reasons:

  • No Internet Access

    Okay, sure, you can just turn off your WiFi, but clicking a button to turn it back on is a heck of a lot easier than needing to physically go and open up a computer or unlock a phone. When I write by hand, gaining internet access is a chore that stops me from the flow of writing, which makes me more reluctant to do it. I know that the Freewrite/Hemingwrite produces the same result, but it doesn’t fully cover my next point.

    • No Screens

    We look at screens all the time. We’re surrounded by them. Writing by hand makes it so that you’re actually spending some time looking at a physical object rather than an electronic interface, and that’s a nice feeling for your eyes.

    • Notes in the margins

    This is one that I doubt is a benefit for everyone, but it’s a lifesaver for me. Thinking about something as I’m writing and being able to make a quick note of it without cutting off my current sentence or disrupting my flow through comment creation is *chef’s kiss*. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been drafting and have thought of something relevant for a later chapter or a previous paragraph. In both cases I can make a note in the margins with what I’m thinking, and that jogs my memory when I return to edit the piece.

    • It makes me stop and think—or push on without thinking.

    A blank page is just more exciting to me than a blank screen. A blank screen feels insurmountable and slightly dreadful. A blank page seems crisp and inviting. The act of writing by hand allows me not only to start something in that place of excitement, but also to move effortlessly into freewriting, which is necessary for me when I find myself suck. And when I need to stop and think about what I’ll write next, I can pause without feeling intimidated by the cursor blinking at me. There’s a comfort in that.

    • I remember more of what I write.

    I’m a visual and kinetic learner, which means that I learn best by reading and by doing. When I type, I’m basically reading as I write. When I write by hand, I’m reading as I write while performing the action of writing. This helps my memory, and it allows me to have a better sense of what I’m coming up with on a first draft.

    • I’m more connected to the piece.

    This is a weird one, but I do genuinely feel like I’m more in tune with how the piece is coming along when I handwrite. I get a better sense of pacing and flow, and I can better tell when paragraphs are running too long or if moments need to last longer. I can make quick notes on these pacing issues as I go (see #3), and that makes editing more focused and productive. It’s also pretty great to finish a longer project, like a novel, and marvel at the stack of notebooks.

    • I love it.

    Plain and simple. This really could be the one and only reason. I love it! I love the sound of pen on paper. I love the look of the ink as it spills out of the pen. I love the way a pen feels as I flip it around with my fingers or roll it in my hand. I love the way that it allows me the space to scratch, scribble, draw arrows, make stars, and generally be a bit more loose, creative, freeform, and uninhibited in my writing process.

    This is not to say that I never type things out. I type faster than I write by hand, and sometimes I need that speed to get all my ideas down. But most of the time, what I need is to relax, let things flow, and enjoy the feeling of pen on paper.

    Stay gold.

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