Write by Hand. Your Stories Will Thank You.
When I switched over from writing by keyboard to writing by hand, it was a matter of having randomly read James Baldwin saying he wrote by hand because his sentences were crisper as a result of it. And me, loving every word by that King of American (ok, ok, world) letters, had to give it a try.
Baldwin writes in longhand (“you achieve shorter declarative sentences”)
Now, there were a few other minor factors that played into this: the main one being that by writing I was forced to deal with my own train of thought rather than that of the hivemind. IOW I was disconnected from the internets.
But the internet wasn’t the main thrust of my migration from keyboard to hand.
I was simply trying to be a better writer. So my process became: write it out by hand, type it, print it, then edit and work with it. Sometimes, after printing it out, I would look at the story, feel it was weak and rewrite it using that original story as the skeleton. An entirely new style hit me.
I’ve come up with a new style, new voice. And some of these shorts have reached more people and been accepted to a handful of literary magazines (albeit small), which was my main goal.
Anyhow, the other day I was reading this article in the The New Yorker about how different modes of writing affect the writing itself. I agree with much of what it has to say. I think that being disconnected from the internets gives someone a different mindset and can result in very different kinds of writing. But the article appears to stress the need to separate one from the hivemind a little too much.
Certainly, the internet is a non-trivial voice in today’s world, but you can take your computer anywhere, switch off the wifi or go someplace there’s no wifi and you would be disconnected. And though that’s worthwhile it’s not the only step one should take.
What I’m trying to say, dear reader, is that even the typewriter that so many people want isn’t even close to being as good as the mighty pen or pencil.
There’s something visceral about writing that not even a typewriter can emulate. Though I’m certain that the difficulty of a striking a typewriter vs a keyboard would make it better than a keyboard, the pen reigns supreme.
With the pen you scrawl each letter, each word, and though it’s slower, you learn to accept that slowness and think in slower terms. But it’s not just slowness. Telling you to place some resistance on your fingers to slow your typing wouldn’t have the same effect.
It’s also a matter of actually creating each letter for yourself that does the trick. This act turns the creation of a story or essay into a real human moment. And it’s not just me rambling away in some metaphysical way. There’s also studies that show that people who take notes by hand retain information better.
This isn’t to say that all your writing should be done by pen. Sometimes one just needs to write something up and share it. That is when you should use a keyboard or a touch screen.
But if you haven’t tried writing things out by hand I suggest you give it a try and see where it takes your writing. You might be surprised.