Turning Ideas Into Words

The Joy of Writing by Hand

Writing by Hand

These days, there are many ways to communicate the written word, so the options for writers and how they get their ideas into the real world are pretty much endless. Over the last few years, I have come across people who write direct on to their laptop. By that, I mean they type. Literally writing on your laptop would probably void the warranty.

Some are slightly more old school than that and they prefer to use a typewriter. After all, who can forget Ernest Hemingway’s immortal words;


Others prefer the walk-and-talk approach. No, not like The West Wing. They dictate what they’re writing and then either type it up later, or use speech-to-text software. I have even heard of writers who find they are most creative when using a word processing app on their smartphone. That way, they can write wherever and whenever they want to.

There are probably countless other ways that you could think of for getting an idea down on paper (or on screen).

My way is much simpler. I write by hand. Almost exclusively.

Of course, I then type up what I have written, but primarily, my first draft is done by hand.

thinking_capI tend to think a lot clearer when I have a pen in my hand. The slow, analogue process of writing by hand makes me consider each sentence as it comes to me, while simultaneously keeping a thought on what is coming next.

And here’s why:

A piece of paper doesn’t have any other apps for me to distract myself. If I am focusing my energy on a blank piece of paper, I am much more likely to fill it than a blank computer screen than can be transformed into an internet page at the click of a button. Or worse, a game of Solitaire.

Even when I took part in NaNoWriMo last year (good luck to all taking part this year!), the 50,000 words I wrote in that month were predominantly done by hand. I filled one and a half full A4 notebooks in those 30 days alone.

Of course, the drawback at that the point came when I then had to type up each and every one of those 50,000 words as I went, in order to make use of the Verification part of the NaNoWriMo website. But that in itself is not a bad thing.

I have grown accustomed to writing by hand then typing up that particular scene or chapter while it is still fresh in my mind (before the tipping point between enthusiasm and self-doubt is reached). It is all part of my own creative process and, for the most part, it works well for me.

And it comes with a couple of hidden advantages.

isolated-old-writing-grunge-texture-background-notebook-handwriting-black-white-vintage-resource-eps-vector-88653662Firstly, it’s quite difficult for others to read over my shoulder while I write. Aside from the fact that I tend to shut myself away in my room to write, if someone were to try and read over what I had written immediately after the fact, most of the time, they wouldn’t understand a word of it! The more relaxed into writing I get, the faster my thoughts flow. The faster my thoughts flow, the faster I write and my handwriting deteriorates accordingly. I am very fortunate that I am so familiar with my own handwriting, that I know what it says, even when others don’t. Although, there have been times when even I have paused to turn the page upside down in the hopes of deciphering a word or phrase my hand has struggled to keep up with.

My mum proofreads pretty much everything I write, and I am sure she is relieved I send her typed copies and not snapshots of my notes. In case you’re wondering, she has immaculate handwriting – I don’t know how she does it!

6abd057a784cfd8fAnd secondly, have you ever heard of someone being able to hack into a handwritten notebook? Of course, this particular advantage is rather short-lived once I get it all typed up, but even then I still have the handwritten copy to go back to if something goes wrong with the electronic copy.

The Down Side

Now, you may be sat wondering a couple of things at this point:

  • Does my left hand get sore doing this? Yes. Yes it does!
  • Am I at all worried about developing RSI? Absolutely! But I know some excellent physiotherapists so, in the long run, I’ll be fine.

writerscrampI frequently come away from writing with pain in my fingers, my wrist, even as far as my elbow. My knuckles crack and complain in all weathers at times, and the noises that my hand and wrist can make when I stop to flex could make a grown man pale with nausea.

But I’m afraid that just isn’t enough to make me stop. I have found a writing method that works for me and that is really all that matters.

I will way this, though; I see cod-liver-oil tablets in my future!

How about you?

Not the cod liver oil bit. What way of writing works best for you? Leave a comment to let me know!


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