Pen to Paper

As much as I love computers for all they have given me — Excel, Oregon Trail, cats on the internetz — there’s something about handwriting I’ll never get over. It’s all so very tactile: your hand brushing against paper; the smell of lead; the ink spots that cover the sides of my index finger after a writing session.


While it’s a lot slower than writing on the computer, most of my writing starts out like this — handwritten in a small purse-sized notebook. There are two reasons for this. One: I don’t own a laptop! Pen and paper is cheap and portable and no matter where I am I can steal fifteen, thirty minutes whenever I can to write.

One of my favorite notebooks: dot-grid from RAD AND HUNGRY.

Two: this may sound odd, but my writing is better when it starts in handwritten form. I really got on the handwriting bandwagon after reading Lynda Barry’s What It Is. (Let me stop right now and say: if you are a creative individual and haven’t read this book, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING GO NOW WHERE IS YOUR CREDIT CARD??) Barry is a big proponent of handwriting. She says it opens up a different part of the brain, something we’re not able to access by sitting stationary at a computer ::

There is a state of mind which is not accessible by thinking. It seems to require a participation with something.

And I dunno. I’ve always argued that I’m a great candidate for the placebo effect, but there’s something about handwriting that just works. The story progresses to places I didn’t imagine — characters say things I didn’t expect. My own stories surprise me in ways they never do when I’m working solely on the computer.

The downside of handwriting: not being able to figure out my notes. STILL not sure what this is supposed to mean...
The downside of handwriting: not being able to figure out my notes. STILL not sure what this is supposed to mean…

I try to get other things into my notebooks, too. Drawings (which I do poorly). Typography (OH SO AMATEUR). I’m not good at these things but I’d like to get better. One notebook at a time.

This weekend’s plan: map out the future backyard on grid paper. Draw out the lines. See where it takes me.

5 thoughts on “Pen to Paper

    1. That tends to be my process as well — first draft by hand, edits as I type it up later. It typically works well (although still doesn’t save me from heavy editing later on).

  1. I can relate. I’m trying the hand-written approach to draw up an outline for the latest draft of my novel, and I really like it! Best selling author Kristen Hannah writes the entire first draft of her novels by hand, then her assistant transcribes it into her computer.

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