Thursday, February 10, 2011

Typing Versus Writing

I used to write everything by hand. Almost every story I wrote prior to 2007 was written with pen and paper first, and typed up later. Even some of my essays and school homework were written by hand and then typed. I love writing with a pen and paper. But it's not the smell of the ink, or the satisfying (although it is) stack of pages that grows taller every time I fill up a sheet of paper. It's the texture of the page, running my fingers across the written words on the page, and feeling the bumps and indentations of the letters scrawled across the lines. It's always entertaining to read my margin notes too, which frequently contain quotes or vocabulary from whatever movie I've been watching or music I've been listening to while I wrote that particular page. Amazingly enough, I can still usually figure out what that background media was when I look back at those pages, even though most of them are now 5 or more years old.
    But back to the feel of the page: it feels like creation. It feels like production. Look, Ma, I did it! You can't get that kind of satisfaction from a computer. Ooh, word count! Not the same. No matter how many times I change the font or the text color or add italics or spacing or whatever to dress it up, it doesn't have that same wow factor that a stack of pages does. Sure, you can print them out. Those stacks of pages are pretty impressive actually, with the title page on top and all those perfectly even margins and uniform text and font and page numbers. But even then, that stack of pages doesn't feel the same as the stack of lined paper, wrinkled with water stains, and scribbled on in that fervent, untidy, chicken scratch handwriting that happens when the words just couldn't be written fast enough.
    This is the kind of writing that's worth the effort. Whether it's just for you or whether you want the whole world to read it, that feeling of awe at yourself for having created something is necessary for it to be worthwhile. Unfortunately, I can only seem to get that feeling from handwritten work, and yet I persist in writing all my stories and ideas on a computer now that I have my own. It's faster, more convenient, I can type upwards of 60 words per minute, and I can do my research and all my other online tasks at the same time. There are plenty of reasons why I do write on the computer, but not one good reason why I should write on the computer rather than on paper. Again, it's a lot easier to get ideas down because my typing speed is much faster than my handwriting speed. But is it worthwhile when I don't get that elation I experience when I write "The End" on that last page and add it to the stack?
    Maybe I should reevaluate my writing goals this year. My primary goal has been to keep posting regularly to this blog. So far, so good. But maybe I ought to consider setting a goal that involves writing by hand. And finishing. Don't get me started on finishing things (if that makes sense). [Aside: I think the ratio of stories finished to stories begun has decreased exponentially so that hardly any of them are finished anymore.]
    However, for not finishing things, I think I have to blame the Muse. Little minx has been a bit stubborn the last few, well, years. But I have faith that she will return. On that day, my pen will run dry trying to keep filling up blank sheets of paper, instead of the blank screen of the word processing program.
Success is a once blank page covered with words. 

2 comments:

writinginspiration said...

I've experienced the exact same thing, just without the stacks of paper; instead, I love to use notebooks. In addition to the flow and the emotional side to it, writing by hand has one major pro that computers don't have: mobility. Since I started to write my WIP novel by hand, I've been able to do it during school breaks, subway trips, before guitar practice... anywhere really. :) The computer may still be a lot faster, but for the cost of just a notebook and a pen I can briefly dive into my own world whenever I have a minute's worth of free time.

Constant Writer said...

I totally agree. That's one reason I used to write so much more than I do now is because I had a notebook or loose leaf pages with me everywhere I went. When I really get into a story I'm working on, sometimes I do that anyway and type it up later.

+Constant Writer

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