Posted in writing

The Writing Diaries pt. 6 : A Handwritten Letter

When was the last time you sat down with a pen or a pencil, and just wrote? Allowing the words to guide you across the page, instead of a rigid outline? It could be in the form of a letter, a journal entry, or anything in between. If you’re a writer, then it might not be so long ago. But in the age of modern convenience, we likely don’t “write”, by hand as our forefathers once did. I know that I have given in to the kings of convenience, despite my fondness for simple, pen and paper. Technology has managed to sneak its way into nearly all forms of writing, and even reading for that matter. For today’s post, I want to consider the different ways that writing by hand, or through a computer might affect the writing process.

In the early stages of the story process I always opt for a pen and a notebook, to capture those first few details and snippets, as they unfold inside my head. I’ll use sticky notes to jot down random names or topics needing more research. I might even write pages and pages of backstory that will likely never make it into the final work. But when I feel ready, I leave the paper behind and open up a “Pages” document on my computer, and let the real story begin. It’s exciting to start filling the empty space with words, and quotation marks, and chapter titles. To me, that’s when the real story begins and it starts to look and feel like a proper book.

Occasionally though, as time goes by and the story begins edging towards its climax, I can feel discouragement set in and the flow of writing can come to a halt. I become frustrated and feel that my efforts no longer look or feel like a “proper” book. It might start to feel like a jumbled mess, and I can experience great disappointment. It feels like all the hours and days poured into the project have resulted in nothing more than a wilted bloom, barely clinging to life, instead of the vibrant flower I had first envisioned.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question: “Does writing the first draft on a computer add more pressure to my writing process?”

On one hand, I can say that writing the first draft in a word document is genius. It’s easy to pound scores of words out by the minute, it’s easier to make changes, easier to recognize mistakes, and most of all, it’s easier to read computerized fonts than the scribbled chicken-scratch on paper. You can send a snippet to a friend for feedback, or even delete an entire section if you so choose. But could that be where the trouble lies? On a computer, nothing is permanent, and anything can be altered or changed at any given moment. Instead of plowing ahead with the story, it might be tempting to work backwards, and edit as you go. Perhaps a bit of permanence is helpful, or dare I say, even needed.

I’m reading through a book right now about the “writer’s life“. In it, the author shares many writing exercises to practice. One of them is to sit down and write three pages of longhand everyday on any topic you choose. She calls it “morning pages”, but it can be done at any time of the day. The idea is to cultivate a habit, and commitment to writing each day. And to show yourself that you can indeed write anywhere, anytime, anyhow. It doesn’t matter how messy or mixed up your words come out. The exercise is meant to allow your words to flow freely, and uninterrupted.

In the past, I have tried many times to write the first draft by hand, but I inevitably give up after only a few pages. Quick and convenient, always seems to trump slow and steady. I know that many authors write their first draft entirely by hand, and that has always astounded me. Writing by hand takes a lot of time, and to me, the story feels closer to being done when I can see it all typed out on a screen, (even if it’s very far from actually being done).

Recently, I’ve decided to try something different, an experiment if you will. For starters, I’ve decided to write a short story–something I haven’t done for quite a while. I’ve felt that my writing habits needed some livening up, so why not turn my usual routine on its head? I pulled out a new notebook, filled up my fountain pen with ink, and simply began writing. I’m not worrying too much about when I should write, or even if I feel like I’m in the right mindset to write–I’m simply writing. So far it’s been fun, really fun. Granted, I’ve had to stop myself at times, from the “not good enough”, thoughts that try to interrupt my progress, but for now, I’m trying to tell that part of my brain to stay quiet.

I’ve found that writing by hand takes away much of the pressure I usually feel when writing. And I’m learning to write without the imaginary critic hanging over my shoulder, and to simply write to tell the story that wants to be told. And that notion, for me, had gotten misplaced somewhere along the way. Until I complete my little experiment, I may not know if my writing habits will forever be changed, but for now, I’m enjoying the process and I think I may be converted. (Which means I’m going to need some more notebooks.)

What about you? Do you like to write on a computer, or are you more old-fashioned, preferring the pen and paper method? Tell me your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

10 thoughts on “The Writing Diaries pt. 6 : A Handwritten Letter

  1. What’s so funny is that years ago, when I first started writing, I had zero idea that people actually wrote their work on the computer! The thought never even occurred to me! I also had no idea about editing and about second, third, and tenth drafts.
    In my mind, a writer sat down at their desk and thoughtfully wrote out an entire, beautiful, perfectly worded book, in their notebook, (or on a typewriter) And that was that! On to the next story, lol!
    As a result of my limited knowledge, that has always been how I wrote. Paper, and a heavily sharpened pencil. Another result of this belief is that I wrote as if my story was a published book, so unconsciously, I was bettering my descriptions and dialogue so that there weren’t a ton of micro edits that had to be made. Perhaps the plot wasn’t workable or the scene made no sense, but it still read really nicely out loud.
    Nowadays I’m thankfully more aware of this whole “computer writing thing”. XD But still, I’ve chosen to write by hand. I feel closer to the story that way. And I didn’t even realize that it was slower until quite recently. Overall, for me hand writing has just always been my thing. I’ve only written a few stories on a computer and I loved doing it because it was new and different, but I prefer being able to flip pages to see my old work and not scroll up.
    I’m so glad writing by hand has been so helpful to you! Hopefully it continues to do just that! I’m looking forward to continuing to experiment with stories on the computer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Feeling closer” to the story is a good way to put it. And I think it’s awesome you write by hand! *thumbs up*
      I didn’t know there were multiple drafts either, until I actually began to study a little more, lol. It’s funny how everyone has to figure out these things in their own way.
      Thanks! I’m looking forward to writing more stories like this.
      And good luck with your experiment, too! 🙂

      Like

  2. I LOVE writing by hand, and journal all the time. I’ve always thought of writing a first draft by hand BUT I have horrendous handwriting and translating like 90k words from handwritten to a computer, or even just trying to read through it all would be a nightmare for me XD

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I remember an article about taking photos with a digital camera, vs using a 35mm camera and rolls of film. You tend to think, or put more consideration into the subject with film. Once the shutter opens its done. I believe the same holds true in writing. Once the pen hits the pad its done. No backspace.

    I like pens and paper, Its a freeer (?) form of expression for me. Seeing the letters sliding off the nib of a fountain pen, its almost like its not even you. The story is there to be told you just have to find it!

    Happy Trails!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think the world has suffered a bit from leaving analog methods behind. As you said, when there’s no “delete” option, your thinking is quite different.
      And yes, writing with a fountain pen is a completely different experience than using a typical pen! I agree with you completely.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes yes yes! Every so often I try to draft on the computer and while it is faster, I feel so much more pressure. For some reason, the story just flows and builds better when I draft by hand.

    Beautiful fountain pen, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. Writing by hand is something special, that computers can never mimic.
      Thanks! It writes so magically, and I love it, lol.
      Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

      Like

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