One Reason I Write With Pen and Paper

In her recent blog-post response to my 7-7-7 post, my online writer-friend Jen Luitwieler talks about my new “fancy fountain pen” which references some of our Twitter conversations (along with our friend, Andrea Cumbo at AndiLit.com) about the pros and cons of working longhand.

See? I even wrote this blog post by hand.

It’s true. I hand write my first drafts, both fiction and non. I make handwritten edits and revisions to my printed manuscripts. I even hand-write most of my blog posts before transcribing them into this digital format. (Fear not, good reader, I do NOT write out my Tweets and status updates. I live on the edge…)

There are a number of reasons I work with pen and paper, rather than writing directly into the computer. It’s the way my creative process works best, and if there were no other benefits, that alone would be enough. Beyond that, though, there is a simple reason: I always have a pen and paper with me. Wallet. Keys. iPhone. Small Molskine notebook. Pen. My minimum traveling load.

But there is another, major benefit. It came to me as I was researching and drafting my graduating seminar paper: the analog world of pen and paper frees me from the “always on” digital world.

In his book, The Accidental Creative, Todd Henry talks about the modern, anti-creative problem of digital “ping”. Ping is the tendency we have to be distracted by our email, Twitter feed, Facebook, and other online sources of information. All of these things combine to drain our time, our energy, and our creativity, and they are ever-present in this world of constant internet access.

There are technology-based ways to combat ping, and some people are simply able to will themselves to ignore all of the inbox indicators, ding-dong alerts, and chirps, but, for me, the most effective solution is to step away from the digital world and lose myself in writing the old-fashioned way.

To be free of ping…that’s an amazing reason to love my stacks of notebooks and my fancy fountain pen. 😉

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8 thoughts on “One Reason I Write With Pen and Paper

  1. Interesting point. I tend to type my blog posts straight into word press because it’s faster and easier for me to get the words out. I do tend to get distracted by the other stuff, though, so maybe I should try doing some blog posts the old-fashioned way…

    • There are some blogs where I just “wing it” but typically I write three or four at a time, and just do it on paper. For my fiction writing, it is absolutely necessary for my process that I write long-hand to start.

      Thanks for reading!!

  2. Eric-I totally agree with the need to get away from the “ping” and connect creatively with something tangible. I too write by pen and paper, and then transcribe. I recently started using Dragon Naturally Speaking to speed up the process, which helps a lot for time saving. But it’s so important to have that connection to the words on the page outside of the computer screen, whehter for blog posts or otherwise. Thank you for sharing!

    • You know, I’ve tried Dragon several times over the years. (I remember having access to…version 3.0 or something, back in the day?) What I’ve found, specifically when writing fiction, is that the act of physically typing the hand-written work into the computer serves as another layer of initial editing and even expanded creativity…the characters will start moving on their own, even as I’m (supposedly) transcribing those hand-written notes. If I’m good, I let them wander off a bit, add to what I first saw, and deepen that first draft.

      Now, for blogging, I think it might work, but, honestly, I’ll likely never use word-rec software unless I have a physical reason to…

      Thanks for reading, though, and for the add on Twitter. Look forward to connecting with you.

  3. Eric,

    Your post got passed along to me by a friend. I don’t usually write out my blog posts long hand, but I do occasionally draft essays for other venues by hand. Getting out of the “ping” environment certainly helps. I tend to think that there is also something to the materiality of writing with pen on paper that carries certain benefits that are difficult to conceptualize.

    Thanks for putting these thoughts down.

    Cheers,

    Mike

    • I totally agree that there are other benefits, creatively speaking. There have been some articles published about the creative impulse and how it is accentuated by physically writing. This notion of being away from (some) of life’s little distractions, though, really hit home as an important side benefit.

      Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to your friend for passing my blog along to you.

      Best,
      -esw

  4. I can’t even conceive of writing longhand. In fact, I am doing a Bible study where one of the bits of homework is to write long scripture passages by hand. I seriously contemplated using the computer until I realized there were lined pages in the back of the workbook set aside for this.

    I type faster than I write, I can read what I’ve typed (not necessarily true with my handwriting) but mostly I edit as I write. So I can barely get the words on the paper without already scratching through them and moving sentences around.

    I carry a small moleskin to make notes, but true be told I am rarely without my MacBook Air. (Small enough that a pad of paper won’t fit in the carrying case.)

    • Linda,
      I went through a phase where I tried to “sit at the keyboard” but it just doesn’t work for me. That could change, though, in the future. Who knows. I’ll never say never. 🙂

      -esw

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