A Note to My Subscribers and 7 Reasons to Consider Hand-Writing

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7 Reasons to Consider Handwriting First-Drafts

This week, I’ve stumbled upon another encouraging little trick in finishing my work that I’d forgotten from long ago: the beauty of handwriting.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “Handwriting is slower…how does that help you to finish a book more quickly?”

I’ll tell you why:

1. Handwriting is more encouraging. When I type things into a computer, it goes “into the vortex”. It’s mightily discouraging to finish a day’s work and have nothing to show for it. When I write on paper, or in a journal, I can look down and say, “THAT is what I accomplished today. THIS much tree.” It’s a good feeling.

2. Handwriting feels more personal. You might not have saved that e-mail from your grandmother who passed away – but I bet you saved her letter. Why? Because there’s something more personal about putting something on paper. Touching and scratching and etching on the work you do, I have to believe, adds a more personal touch.

3. Handwriting is closer to the speed of thought. I can type faster than I can think, which often leaves me staring at a blank cursor. But when I write on paper, I feel like I could go on forever. It’s a more fluid process, with less time to feel like I’m doing nothing.

4. Handwriting makes you feel like a writer. Okay, I admit this is cheap. But come on – we need all the encouragement we can get, right? To be honest, sitting down with pen in hand just makes me feel like a writer. It’s part of overcoming the barrier to believing it.

5. Handwriting is conducive to first-drafts. If the goal of a first-draft is to ‘get it all on paper’, no matter how good, bad or ugly – then sitting at a computer is the mortal enemy of first drafts. That delete button is all-too-tempting to those of us who love to craft our words perfectly. Either discipline yourself not to touch it, or write on paper.

6. Handwriting makes for careful words. When you write something on paper, no word is left behind. On a keyboard, it’s easier to be careless.

7. Handwriting is accessible. There are some places I feel more comfortable using a laptop – an airplane terminal, or a desk – but there are other places I feel more comfortable writing on paper. Before I go to bed, for example, I’d rather not sit up, ruin my back and glare at a screen for 45 minutes. Writing on paper calms me down, and is a nice way to add writing time to my busy schedule.

8 Comments

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  • Andrew Sargent

    I think I’ve forgotten how. :-(

    • nmcdonal

      You should write a post-apocalyptic book about “The Last of the Cursive-Writers”.

  • Andrew Terry

    I find I am more creative and reflective when I write by hand; especially writing in cursive. I believe it has something to do with the left brain/right brain paradigm. I know I need to practice this more. Usually I don’t have the time to write by hand. In the time frame I usually have to write first draft is final draft.

    • nmcdonal

      I wonder if it has to do with using more senses – it seems the more of your body can be engaged, the more it frees up the right side of the brain…then again, that could be completely bogus.

  • jchotchkiss

    I am writing a simple Amen, in cursive, as we speak. In a moleskin. Old letters I have uncovered have formed the basis for several of my short stories, which were also drafted by hand.

    • nmcdonal

      You bring up a good point – not everything is moleskin worthy! But certainly any genre of fiction is, including short stories.

  • Tim Brown

    From Nicholas Carr’s book, “The Shallows,”
    “At wits end, (Nietzsche) (due to physical disabilities) ordered a typewriter–a Danish-made Malling-Hansen Writing Ball…But the device has a subtler effect on his his work. One of Nietzsche’s closest friends, the writer and composer Heinrich Köselitz, noticed a change in the style of his writing. Nietzsche’s prose had become tighter, more telegraphic. There was a new forcefulness to it, too as though the machine’s power–it’s “iron”–was, through some mysterious metaphysical mechanism…”
    ” ‘You are right’, Nietzsche replied. ‘Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.’ “(17, 18, 19)

    • nmcdonal

      Now THAT is fascinating…could make for a good blog post! Thanks for sharing Tim.