Computers. They are the truest form of evil or they can be a savior. Computers can be a writer’s best friend or greatest enemy. Lately, computers have become an enemy to me as an author. After working 9+ hours each day, the last thing I want to do is to stay up all night typing my latest fiction on a computer. This “anti-computers-after-8-pm” attitude places a damper on my novel progression because I just cannot bring myself to flip that power switch back on after a long day of typing.
But tonight, I had an epiphany while driving home from the office. Why do I not return to my writing roots? Return back to where I first fell in love with the written word. Back to a time when I laid on my bed for hours, scribbling away in a spiral notebook with my trusty pen.
Writing came so much more naturally back then than what it seems to now. I used blame the loss of natural flow on the stress of adulthood, but I am now reexamining that excuse. I think it may be because I have lost that direct connection with writing. When you write with a pen on paper, the act of drawing out words ties your brain and heart to what is being written. Because of that synchronization, the story flows better.
I am reminded of a conversation that I once had with an author friend, Phil Giunta. I bore witness to the life of his first novel, Testing the Prisoner. When I would visit his desk at work, I would stare in awe of the stack of scrap printer paper that towered on his desk. His daily lunchtimes were spent scrawling the novel from his head onto those sacred pieces of paper by hand. It was inspiring to say the least. His reason behind handwriting over typing was because it helped him to connect more to his writing and he was able to get his ideas down faster. He still stands behind the “handwritten” process to this day. All of his first drafts are still written by hand.
The bond with writing is so much stronger with the author when it is scripted by hand. To elaborate on what I mentioned earlier, your brain actually has to consciously think harder when you are handwriting as opposed to typing. Handwriting helps to clarify thoughts and enhance memory. So many more senses are used when writing by hand than typing. Our brain receives feedback from the motion of the pen’s movement, the feel of the paper’s texture, the pressure of the pen gripped between fingers. All senses that help our brains become more connected to the act and content of what is being written. These senses are lost when touching the textureless keys on a keyboard.
The act of handwriting also helps our brains to focus. I pride myself on my typing skills; I never have to look at the keyboard. Yet, with that powerful skill there in lies the problem. There have been countless times while writing that I catch myself leaning back in my chair, eyes float to look out the window, and my brain completely disconnects from my fingers. My fingers continue to move, but the text that is being typed is rather incoherent. I get bored typing and my mind always wanders. When that happens, I lose track. This never occurs when handwriting. I can’t take my eyes off the paper, for if I do, I may end up writing on my desk! That forces me to keep focused, enabling the writing flow to keep flowing. And with the more conscience effort of moving my pen, I am even more engaged.
So why have I lost this love affair with handwriting? I am not sure of the why, but I can sadly trace the “when”. It happened about 8 years ago. At one time, I used to have 20 notebooks stashed under my bed and an unfathomable amount of journals on my bookshelves. There were also notebook-pen combos in each bag or purse that I carried everyday. Hell, at one time I even had six notebooks in my car! But for some reason, 8 years ago, I became deeply immersed in technology. The event: I bought my first laptop. That was the death of the hand scripting of my tales. I had one portable electronic device, which I carried everywhere. That laptop held every story, every poem, every musing. There was no longer a need to have a plethora of notebooks and pens. I no longer had the hassle of physically keeping track of all those handwritten pages.
But the technology became a crutch and is now a hindrance to my writing. Today I am returning to the ways of pen and paper. This post took me 20 minutes to draft by hand and 10 minutes to type. In the past, blog posts could take me anywhere up to an hour to type a draft. The lengthy time result is because I cannot focus creatively and type at the same time.
In order to be successful in my creative writing endeavors, I will kick out the monsters out that are hiding under my bed and start stashing my new handwritten notebooks there once again.
Where they belong.