The Great Longhand Experiment is Over
A year and a half ago, experiencing a tech overload and dealing with so much static in my brain that I couldn’t get anything done, I cut back my tech consumption and went into the woods camping with my family for a long weekend and started writing by hand. For more than a year that worked well for me. I made progress on the new book (even if some of that progress was writing then cutting 45k words) and made some important changes to my overall writing process. But for a couple of months now, I’ve been feeling like it wasn’t working anymore and that I needed to go back to the computer.
A quick check of my records shows that the last time I wrote a full batch of new words was August 5, so that’s almost two months without new words on this book. Now, part of that was that September is a notoriously busy month in our house, and part of it was that there were problems with the story structure that needed to be worked out before I could move forward. On September 18, I cut about 5k words and restructured almost all of the book, which did include writing quite a few new words.
All of this was done on the computer and that’s what really got me thinking I needed to get back to it. All of the best lines and best chunks in this book have been written on the computer. After writing pages out longhand, I would spend a few days typing it into the computer cutting useless stuff along the way and polishing up some of the bland prose. My brain just seems to work better when I’m typing. All of that was more than two weeks ago, and after all of the cutting and restructuring, I knew exactly where the story needed to go, but I was never able to get the words down until last night when I sucked it up and pulled out my laptop instead of my fountain pen. The words didn’t exactly flow, but after a break of almost two months, that’s to be expected.
There are a couple of reasons I think longhand stopped working for me. The big one is that one of the hallmarks of my writing process is that I can write anywhere anytime. This is how I managed to write three novels (two published) several short stories, essays, and other work while juggling a day job, a family, and a freelance career. But, odd as it seems, writing by hand doesn’t work that way for me.
It worked great when I could wake up an hour early and write uninterrupted for an hour, but I can’t whip my pen out and knock out a few hundred words here and there when I need to keep up the momentum the way I can with my laptop. It seemed more precious to me, and preciousness is the quickest way to kill any kind of process. With our new family schedule requiring us all to get up an hour earlier than we were already, I don’t have that luxury anymore, so I have to go back to being able to write anywhere and any time I have a free moment, so goodbye longhand.
I’ve been wondering now what to do with all of the great pens and notebooks I have. I thought about journaling more, and did that for a few days before I decided I’d rather put almost all of the stuff I was writing in a journal up here on my website instead. None of that is important though, what’s important is that I found a way back to what works for me so I can keep moving forward on this book and hit my goal of a completed first draft by the end of the year.