It all started with an article in The Wall Street Journal about writing using the “old fashioned” tools of pen and paper: The Powers That Flow from a Pen. Writer Paul Theroux argues that in writing by hand, more of who one is gets into the work, that there is a deeper connection to the words.
I’m attempting to discover if this is true. Over the years, I’ve written bits and pieces using pen and paper – due to necessity mostly if a computer wasn’t available. But, now I am actually trying to write a novel totally by hand in a notebook.
More honestly, I’m revising a story I finished back in 2010. I had it edited and the editor came back with a bunch of helpful comments which, due to personal circumstances as well as a non-fiction book that I wrote in the interim, I had no opportunity to do anything with until now. So, I am dusting off an old story and discovering that I pretty much need to rewrite the entire thing. I’ve changed in the past two years. My knowledge of the craft of writing has increased. I’m looking at this story with a very different perspective and with a different tool of writing in my hand. Instead of tapping away at my keyboard (as I am obviously doing now), I am scribbling in an old notebook, trying to get it all out.
While still rather early in this process, here are a few things I have learned so far:
1) This is messy. I am writing on only one side of each sheet of paper, but it is still a mess. When I want to add/ change things, I put in arrows pointing to the reverse side and the margins where I have made my corrections. I can only hope I will be able to make sense of this!
2) I can’t count my words. While an average written page offers an approximate number of words, I have a jumbled mess (see #1). I can’t check my word count every fifteen minutes or mark my day by saying the exact number of words I completed. I can only write the story. That is liberating . . . somewhat.
3) There is no way to save. There is one copy and only one copy of this work. If it is lost, there is no way to recover it. I don’t get to obsessively email myself a copy of my work-in-progress every night before going to bed. I don’t think I would ever choose this manner of writing if I were under contract.
4) This process will definitely facilitate revision. At some point, I will have to type each of these words into my computer. Unlike looking at a computer file where one is more inclined to just leave what is there, I will no doubt change many things as I type.
This is an adventure – something new for me! I will see how it progresses and will keep you posted. How about you? Do you ever write things by hand? Which method do you prefer?