1974 is a special year — not only for me…
Although writing with a computer and keyboard does have very many benefits, including spell check and word count, it seems that there is still much fruit to be gained from writing longhand with a pen.
In a beautiful blog written by The New York Review of Books, Charles Simic notes that:
“Writing with a pen or pencil on a piece of paper is becoming an infrequent activity, even for those who were once taught the rigorous rules of penmanship in grade school.”
But are there any authors out there today that use pens to write actual novels? Well, the truth is that there are lots of them. Alex Preston, Jon McGregor and Lee Rouke are all fans of longhand.
In a piece in The Guardian, Rouke discusses this very subject:
“I find that writing longhand I can enter a zone of comfort I find hard to achieve when sitting in front of a screen – I find typing annoying, if I’m the keyboard reminds me of all the offices I’ve worked in. The sound bores into me, it fills me with an anxiety I could do without.”
McGregor, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, discusses writing by hand in the same article and says:
“An idea or phrase can be grabbed and worked at while it’s fresh. Writing on the page stays on the page, with its scribbles and rewrites and long arrows suggesting a sentence or paragraph be moved, and can be looked over and reconsidered.”
For anyone who writes therefore, having a pen and paper ready to scrawl down raw ideas is important, because let us face things truthfully, noting an idea down on your phone is not only a clumsy affair, but is a discredit to both whatever you are typing and to yourself.
But if you’re writing longhand, writing on paper also serves as an excellent way of clearing your mind of all the mist and confusion that can be presented with a computer.
So you can become your own internal editor, free to scrawl, replace and delete without having to hammer away on the backspace key or throw the machine through the nearest closed window when it happens to freeze.
Additionally, this also means that when it comes to placing the work onto screen, you shall be writing the work out for the second time, which means that it will not only be clearer in your mind, but you will be able to amend, edit and improve the text as you go along, making it infinitely more refined.
Possibly the most important thing about writing longhand however, is the fact that your mind is not confined to your office/bedroom/ living room or anywhere where your computer happens to be restricted by four walls.
Go outside, sit by a river, head into a café, or even, if you can face it, into a bar. Write on the bus, do it on a plane, open your mind to the environment around you, because there is nothing more refreshing and inspiring than this.