Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Importance of Handwriting Your Stories

I still write by hand. 

Granted, I also type an awful lot -- last I checked, I clock about 75 WPM, and that's with my unorthodox typing style that primarily utilizes my pointer fingers, thumbs, and pinkies -- but when it comes to sitting down and writing creatively, I still, always have, and will continue to write by hand. I've often been asked by friends, family, concerned onlookers, etc. why I prefer this archaic method of putting pencil to paper and scribbling along. I've wondered myself.

Am I subconsciously working to fit this image in my head of a writer, bent over a desk in a dim room half-lit by an oil lamp, my fingers black with ink as I work to create a story? 

Do I like the scritch-scratch sound of ruffling sheets of paper, the tears of the frills as I shuffle through stacks of notebook paper ripped from spiral bindings? 

Maybe I just like the cramps and early warning signs of carpal tunnel that ache my hands and wrists?

Perhaps it's all of these things listed above and more. There's just something about writing by hand that's difficult to describe through these clunky keys as I write this blog post, but I will endeavor to do so. 

Writing by hand is magical. It sounds a bit froofy, maybe even crazy, but the best descriptor by far is that it's magic.When I'm hunched over in my chair, trying to make use of whatever free space there is on my desk, the writing process feels less like a process and more like a miracle. In this act of sloppily penning a story, with the added notes in the margins and occasional doodles or older remarks about a certain line, the writing process becomes easy.

As my novel takes shape, including the worldbuilding that goes along with it, my room is slowly turning into this.
As writers, perhaps you've had the same experience as I, when you're wrist-deep in what I call the Writing Mode, you enter this almost Zen-like state where you quit thinking about the words as they come out. Instead, they just flow and you're writing, but you're not really writing because you don't have to think so much about each specific word or line or even image. Instead, the words form themselves and you feel like you're just along for the ride and you're just trying to keep up and it's this amazing, intense, almost divine experience. It's the act of creation.

When I'm typing, I put my chances of entering Zen-Writing-God-State at about 20-30%. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. There's just something more artificial when I'm writing by typing. It's the place where revision occurs, that second stage of writing we all despise and simultaneously love, so when I have to be in raw creation mode, typing just isn't the space conducive to it. 

When I'm handwriting, my chances at Zen-Writing-God-State are probably about 30-40%. It's slightly higher and I figure it's because writing by hand is more organic. You're forming the words with your hand; with the flick of your wrist, you're making something from nothing. It's beautiful, quite honestly. Even if you're handwriting is the worst, and your mom berates you and has berated you about it since you were ten years old.

I don't think my handwriting is as terrible as this, but maybe it is? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
And if your handwriting is terrible, don't sweat it. As long as you can read it, it doesn't matter. It's going to be transcribed eventually -- and trust me, you're going to transcribe it. I don't think a single publisher in the world will take a hand-written manuscript. Unless you find some insane indie pub that loves your handwriting, and in that case, I just hope it's legible. 

I love to hand-write. My room is full of notebooks filled up by chicken-scratch scribblings, much more than the Word documents saved on my computer. And if my hard drive ever decided to take a huge dump on itself and die, I at least still have the hand-written rough drafts. So, I really only have to avoid house-fires, or the unfortunate moment when you're carrying the notebooks and loose-leaf paper in your backpack, and while you're fiddling with it while it's open, an errant gust of wind blows by and takes your hand-written chapters with it, scattering it in impossibly myriad directions -- yes, this has happened to me before.

Don't get me wrong. Typing your work is also very, very important. It's professional, it's clean. If you need to do some quick editing or some writing, you save the document to the cloud and you can access it anywhere. It has its own magic -- the magic of convenience. So when I say you should hand-write, don't misunderstand me into thinking that I'm saying don't ever type because typing is the Devil. I'm saying both methods have their place in the writing process.

Don't be afraid to try both.

1 comment:

  1. "And if you're handwriting is terrible, don't sweat it." See the typo? You should write your next piece on editing! ;-) But nice article, I like it!