Tag Archives: pen and paper

Sometimes the old way is better.

If I’m stuck, really stuck, on an idea or scene, or the direction my character is going, I will abandon my laptop for pen and paper. There is something about writing by hand that allows me to work out the kinks. Maybe it’s because I am actually forming words, rather than just typing them. It’s easier to mark out crap I don’t like, not taking the time to highlight and delete, or hold down the Backspace key, or worry about misspellings because I’m typing too fast.  What is that phrase? My brain is working faster than my hands? Something like that. People that use a computer or laptop regularly for any sort of writing often spout those words. It’s true I guess. At times you know what you need to say and are concentrating so hard on the thought that you sort of abandon control of your fingers in order to get it all out. A couple of weeks ago at work, we were having a discussion about spelling, and my manager, an admitted bad speller, used that phrase. She also lamented the absence of a spell-check on the word process program we have on the office computer, but that is a whole different topic. 🙂

Writing by hand seems to slow down the thought process. You can’t think too far ahead because you must take the time to write. Using a pen or pencil connects you physically to your words. The brain must wait for the hand to finish before moving on to the next thought. Unless you don’t want to be able to read the writing for later use, like typing what you wrote.

I think Elmore Leonard sums it up best in his article The Lost Art of Writing by Hand:

“I write using longhand because writing is rewriting and if I’m to compose on a typewriter, I’d spend half my time x-ing out lines.  I write and cross out not wanting what I write to sound like writing; write a few more lines until the rhythm of the narrative or dialogue exchanges kicks in and I keep going, the lines getting closer together though rarely filling a page before I’m crossing out again.  Finally I stop and type on an IBM Wheelwriter 1000 and the handwritten pages go into a basket.  The typed pages – hoping to get four or five clean ones in an 8 hour shift – are revised the following day.

Well-meaning friends urge me to use a computer, but I don’t more for the dull sound of the keys or the idea of looking at my work on the screen rather than a sheet of yellow paper, and when you delete, I’m told, it’s gone forever.  The lines I cross out are still there and sometimes find their way back into the work.” –Esquire Magazine, Feb 2002 (excerpt)



Sorting Through The Clutter

I’ve been free writing lately, and am trying hard to do it each day. In the past, I would sit down and write, or type, until my hand hurt. Moderation is the key. I’m not trying to get out angsty teenage feelings at this point in my life. Nowadays, I get out my handy-dandy iPhone, use the timer function, setting it for five minutes, and off I go. I don’t type anymore when I do the free writing exercise because I get too bogged down seeing misspelled words and such. A paper and pen and my illegible chicken scratch works fine for my purpose. I’m finding that setting a time limit works wonders for de-cluttering my busy thoughts. Especially if I’m following up the exercise with actual fiction writing. 🙂 For five minutes, I do not care about penmanship, spelling, punctuation, or anything else but the immediate thought I’m having. When the timer beeps, I stop. No finishing the train of thought, just a dead stop. And then I tear out the page, crumple it up, and toss it in the trash. I think that extra step is crucial for me.
I used to meditate quite often, but have fallen out of practice. I know a technique some use to start with is to imagine taking their problems and tossing them down a well, or something similar. I could never successfully do that step. I had to wade through my distracting thoughts until my brain got quiet. By throwing away a physical representation of my present grumbles, I get it all out of me, and keep it out.
More importantly, I don’t have any distractions going into my fiction writing, and I’ve reorganized my crazy mind.

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