Hello. This is one of the proverbial “do what I say, not what I do” posts. Well, almost, not really. I’m just going to comment on what happened to me. It’s not a recommendation, it’s an observation.
I type when I write my novels. I use my laptop.
At the end of 2020, as with so many other things that year, I ran into a problem that prevented me from writing on my laptop Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Being the adventurous soul I am, I decided to write at least outlines and research notes by hand.
I also rewrote a few things, paragraphs, and chapters I was not satisfied with and found myself finding ways out of problems and blocks with relative ease.
As you know by now, I could not let that pass just like that. I had to find out if there was a reason for it.
Turns out that when you write by hand, in cursive especially, but you also get the benefits if you print, you are using your brain differently. When you learn to write by hand, you teach your brain functional specialization, integrating sensation, movement, and thinking in the most efficient way possible.
Let’s analyze what we do when we write by hand. We think up our story, just as we do when we type, but when you write it down several areas of the brain get activated. We require fine motor control, also, we are looking at the paper and the lines, we have to project if there will be enough room for what we are writing, we usually are more careful and deliberate with our writing since we can’t “cut and paste” or delete.
“Yeah, but typing focuses me better, all I have to do is put the words down, the program justifies, brakes and sets, it even autocorrects, and I can worry about the rest later.” Yes and no. One of the many editing tricks out there is that when you are not satisfied with a paragraph, or dialogue, or any longish portion of your writing, you should rewrite (retype) it from scratch. Not cut and paste, not reassemble, do it from scratch. Most of us will subconsciously resist “doing useless work” and our evaluation of the passage or dialogue will be a lot more critical. We don’t want to do more work than absolutely necessary. Most of us are lazy, fact of life. When writing by hand we have several thought processes going, one is creating, same as when we type, but another one is taking a look at the length of the page, how many more words we can write in the rest of the line, we are a lot more careful with our spelling, we have to control our writing instrument, make sure that the letters we are getting down will be legible later, and so on.
Let’s take a look at this scenario. When students take notes in class they can take notes by typing, direct transcription from what the teacher is saying, or they can take notes longhand. Usually tanking notes longhand will result in the student listening to the teacher, summarizing the information in their head, and not writing the words verbatim, but rather an already processed thought. This usually results in easier absorption of the information and also the curious fact that different students will all get the same basic information down, but all will have it down in slightly different ways.
Kate Cavenaugh (Kate Cavenaugh Writes, YouTube), has a hybrid method. She outlines, plots, and plans longhand, but types her novel. Revisions and editing notes are also hybrids, some longhand, some typed. She is very good at this, check out her videos if you can.
Brando Sanderson (he has a dynamite series of lectures on YouTube, check it out if you have the chance) writes almost exclusively on his laptop. On the couch. In the middle of the night. I know, right? He is a very successful and prolific writer, so he is doing something right.
As with so many things in writing, this is one of those that is going to depend entirely on personal preference, what works for you may not work for someone else. Writing and editing are hard, so let’s look at this as one more tool in your toolbox. If you have a problem, like I did, with a plot hole or the like, try writing it longhand and see if that helps.
We can say, with absolute certainty, that in writing there is no “one size fits all” (well, duh!), but I think we can also agree that any and all additional tools are good to know. Some we will use and find helpful, some not.
Do you write longhand? Do you exclusively type? Have you tried both? What has been your experience? I’d love to read all about it. Thank you for reading and have a great day.