Monday, September 21, 2015

Hand Writing

A few pages from PB+J

When I was a kid, when I first started writing, I wrote a lot by hand. I also wrote on the computer, then printed it out, and wrote by hand. It wasn't until college that I started doing more and more creative fiction on screen. But it was never easy. I still wrote a lot by hand, in the margins of class notes and the back of syllabi or graded papers.

The worst was when I started creative writing classes. I was so anxious about the first piece I had to write for an actual workshop that I started and stopped several completely different stories until I finally turned in some short story I'd written a few years earlier, not even caring that it was awful just that it was finished. My professor hated everything about that story but he was super impressed by my revision which shows what several years of experience can do for your writing.

Anyway, for years after that, it became easier to create fiction via computer. It got even better when I started using Scrivener and I could write electronically in a way that mimicked how I wrote by hand, i.e. piecemeal, jumping around in the time-line, several versions of the same scene, etc.  Then something happened this year: it suddenly became impossible for me to write anything on a computer.

It's a strange sensation to have words trapped inside you and for reasons you can't rationalize, they won't come out on a keyboard but put pen to paper and I can't stop it from coming out. It obviously wasn't fear of a blank page, I mean a digital page and a physical page possess the same amount of blankness. One day, browsing Pinterest, I found this blog post that pinpoints a handful of reasons why hand writing fiction can be beneficial. I mostly agree with her list but I think there's something missing.

Writing by hand is more natural.  I can rarely type at the speed that the words and stories present themselves in my head yet, writing by hand, there seems to be no slow down between imagination and words. Plus the faster I try to type the more likely I am to misspell words, so now my novel is a word jumble puzzle instead, or I leave whole words or descriptions entirely. More times than I can count, especially on high word count days or NaNoWriMo marathons, I've gone back to read my words and I can't even figure out what I actually said, much less what I meant. Yet, even when my handwriting is illegible, I know what I wrote, either I can figure it out easier or I simply remember, even years later.

I honestly don't know why I'm this way now when for so long a computer and a notebook were interchangeable mediums to me. Obviously both typing and the act of writing are learned activities and I learned them pretty much at the same time. I grew up around computers being as available as pencils and paper, even when most people didn't even know how to use one, much less owned one (my dad's a computer nerd). I learned really simple programming language at the same time I was learning really simple poetry forms.  I've really done both for nearly 30 years now.

But I guess knowing why I do something has never really mattered. And writing is writing is writing. Just, maybe keep it in mind the next time you think you're stuck writing, try changing mediums. Just write.