Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Monday, April 26, 2010

Two Worlds: Longhand v Digital

This weekend my gaming group created characters for the Dresden RPG, a game based on the Harry Dresden novels by Jim Butcher. I spent a little time Sunday scratching out a more in-depth history for my character, written first-person in the style of the Dresden novels.

I decided to write it longhand in one of my black notebooks. There's something different about the act of creation when writing with a pen or pencil as opposed to typing on a keyboard. When I first started writing, I only felt comfortable writing longhand in a notebook. I wrote ten chapters of a novel in a college notebook, largely in closed study hall in high school. I've yet to find those sheaves of paper, written in ball-point pen, full of scratch-outs and notes in the margins. It didn't occur to me to do my writing on DeskMate or any other word processing software for a while. Once I did, I produced a couple pages of a story where my characters went their own way against my wishes. I abandoned that story, and it set a bad precedent for writing on the computer.

Nowadays I do most of my writing on the computer. The speed is far greater, and I can move text around with a lot more ease than I can on paper. Still, there's something to be said for the old-fashioned method: the choice of most comfortable or 'lucky' pen, the ability to write notes in the margin (you can do this with most word processor software these days, but it's not the same), or do sketches of logos or characters or whatever on the page. I'm big on the tactile senses when it comes to writing.

I think I produce different kinds of writing when I choose to utilise the handwritten method rather than the digital. Both have their merits. I tried writing my National Novel Writing Month novel longhand a few years ago. I got about three days in before I realised that there just wasn't enough time, and I was threatening myself with serious writer's cramp. So for novelling marathons, stick with the digital, I say. But give the old-fashioned a chance too: it can be as simple as picking up a cheap spiral-bound notebook and a pen (I recommend gel pens - ballpoints wear me out too quickly - and find a comfy place to write. You can write just about anywhere with pen and paper, and your notebook doesn't need a power brick or a battery to ensure its continued functioning. You might find your writing style changing. You might find you're reminded of school essays and hate it. However you find it, give it a try this week. And share your experiences here if you do. I'd love to know how it goes.

1 comment:

  1. My handwriting is too bad and slow to seriously consider writing anything that way -- I don't even journal privately in longhand anymore. I did used to write little first-person short stories from my RPG characters' points of view back in the day, however, so maybe at your suggestion I'll give it a try and see what I come up with. Maybe more stream of consciousness and less fiddling with editing? It might be good not to have email and the like right there distracting my monkey-brain....