In Love With Long-Hand

Posted on 30th May, 2015

If you have to write something - a blog, a report, a chapter - do you compose it straight onto the screen? There seems to be an acceptance these days that this is the norm. Certainly NaNoWriMo is based on it. Having churned out 50,000+ words in a month, successful participants, jubilant and exhausted, upload their work to have the word count verified. You can't do that if you've spent the month scribbling.

But for me, it's pen to paper every time. Composing directly onto the screen seems clunky and unnatural - it feels like my brain doesn't want to work that way. Put a pen in my hand, though, and thoughts and words flow far more freely.

For me, the physical act of writing is one of the joys of life and it seems to be an essential part of my creative process. Which isn't to say I write in glorious italic script or elegant cursive. On the contrary, I have the same rapid scrawl as my mother and grandmother. (Can handwriting be inherited? My brother's is remarkably similar to Dad's.) Moreover, I write in my personal shorthand, as I imagine most people do when they're writing swiftly and for their own benefit.

It has been suggested to me that writing in pen and then transferring the results to the computer is doubling the workload; and I suppose if you measure the work in terms of word count, then, yes, it is doubled. But remove the pen from the process and the output would be considerably reduced because my brain descends into clunky mode.

I love using a pen. Simple as that.

How about you? Typing or writing by hand? Does it make a difference to your creative output? And do members of your family have spookily similar handwriting?

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Comments (11)

Being a touch typist must make all the difference. Although I type rapidly and without thinking about it, I am not a trained typist. I am intrigued by the thought of your writing your stories with your eyes closed. It must make it an intense experience. Thanks for commenting, Nicola. Lovely to hear from you again.
I do love writing with fountain pen (purple ink) and always handwrite personal letters. But when writing stories I work directly onto the screen. The main reason for this is that I can touch type (the best skill I learned at college, back in the day) and as my mind whirls into action, I close my eyes, picture the images and the words and let my fingers set to work. I don't re-read the prose until the scene has ended in my head. It only went wrong once, when I placed my hands incorrectly on the keyboard and ended up with pages of gobbledygoo :) I have played the piano since I was eight years old and this has helped with posture and confidence of letting my fingers do the talking (so to speak). Great post, Susanna!! All the best.
Ah, now - mind mapping - that's something else I've never been able to do. My plans are always in list form. Thanks as always for supporting my blog, Jen. Now you've got me wondering what Canadian handwriting looks like!
I mind map my plots using pen and paper but otherwise write directly onto the computer screen.

Such an interesting topic for a blog post, Susanna, and the comments others have made are fascinating too.

I'm left-handed and my handwriting isn't anything like that of anyone else in my family. It's been interesting to see how (right-handed) English Rose learned to write. Her handwriting looks very British to me!
I'm with you all the way, April. A pen is part of the thinking process and I do love my fountain pens. Thank you for your comments.
I can't think without a pen in my hand. I write everything in longhand with a fountain pen. My writing is ugly, but the ink looks pretty.

Even at work I would rather do complicated things on paper than on the computer screen. I'm in the legal world, so there are a lot of words and a lot of writing.
Thanks for your comments, Wendy and Cathy.

Wendy, you and I are opposites. For me, the pen releases the creativity. As for letters - I always write them by hand and I write screeds.

Cathy, there was an occasion when my mum and I both sent condolence cards to friends of mine. They arrived on the same day and my friend told me afterwards that she picked up the envelopes from the mat, saw the handwriting and said to her husband, "Why has Sue sent us two cards?"

Your comment about being left-handed is interesting. As I mentioned in the blog, my brother's handwriting is similar to Dad's, but my brother is right-handed and Dad was a lefty.

Thank you both for dropping by.
I type straight onto the screen although I have scribbles in a notebook next to me. Michael is a fountain pen writer and then types up and re-writes in the process. He uses Parker pens and breaks them about every six months or so so he's quite high maintenance!
My two sisters have almost identical handwriting and I can never tell from the address on the envelope which one has remembered to send me a birthday card until I open it. Their handwriting is very similar to our dad's too. My handwriting is completely different to theirs but I'm left handed and they're not so that might explain it.
I am in the 'type it straight onto computer' camp. I can barely read my writing and I find picking up a pen stunts my creativity. If i have to write a letter by hand (hardly ever) I revert to a child being made to write a thank you letter with no ideas in my head of what to say!
Thanks for your comments. I agree with what you say about not doubling the workload. Writing straight onto the computer always generates more editing. Ideas flow much more easily through the pen than onto the keyboard.
Definitely longhand first! Sometimes it might just be in note form, e.g. the outline of a short story, and other times it might be a full first draft of a story. But either way I know my ideas flow better if I write them by hand first. I don't agree that it doubles the workload because I'd definitely have to edit more if I typed my ideas straight on to the computer. Writing them down gets the whole thing straighter in my head so there's less editing to do once I finally get it typed up :)