I recently read an article about how the average American goes for weeks without writing anything by hand. At first my brain rebelled at the idea, but, after giving it more thought, I realized that this was a reasonable assessment. Aside from the occasional Post-It note or shopping list, most folks prefer to type rather than write.
So I’m curious to know: do you prefer to write out scenes and notes by hand or with a keyboard?
Typing does have its advantages. You don’t have to worry about translating someone’s handwriting (and trust me, I get illegible when I’m in a hurry), the advent of smart phones makes touch screens and keyboards ubiquitous, so access isn’t a problem, and, for most people, typing is a lot faster. I’ll admit that I prefer the keyboard to handwriting a lot of the time. It’s easier and faster to edit your book on a screen with simple delete, cut & paste, and a bunch of other fancy options that handwriting or even the old typewriter didn’t have. Whenever I write any scenes down by hand, I end up entering them into the computer anyway, so now I usually bypass the handwritten stage all together and go straight to the computer. One of my writer friends has dozens of notebooks that need to be transcribed into the computer, which is a daunting task.
Despite the ease of computer entry, there still is something very appealing, at least to me, when it comes to handwriting. I’ve always been a fan of dying arts, and knowing how to write in cursive certainly is a dying art. I’ve always found printing to be slow and sloppy, especially when I’m in a hurry, but cursive allow me to write much faster. I’ve been working on my neatness, but for many people, I might as well be writing in Sanskrit because they don’t know how to read cursive anymore, let alone write it. And handwriting has the advantage of being cordless and accessible anywhere. You don’t need cords, batteries, or electricity of any kind. Sure, your smart phone might get internet access at the North Pole or in the middle of the Sahara Desert, but what happens when that battery finally dies? No electricity equals no lovely, über-sophisticated, now-useless technology. I’m a big fan of technology and how it’s made lives easier and more convenient, but I’m a firm advocate of backups. Traditional backups. I’ve got all of my writing saved in at least three places that I back up regularly, but I also print off hard copies every time I finish a page. Why? Because if all of those electronic devices get damaged or wiped, I’ll still have all of my hard work. And paper, despite its faults, is very durable. It can be destroyed by fire or flood, but water is a lot more dangerous to electronics than paper. Water-damaged books can still be salvaged and read, but if you drop your cell phone in the sink, the chances of it surviving for very long are slim. (And no, I don’t believe any tech can be made completely water-proof.
Any means of storing data can be destroyed. I like to keep my options open and use as many storage types as I can. Personally, I prefer a mixture of typing and handwriting for my work. When it comes to writing scenes, I prefer to type, either on my Dana or my computer because it’s faster and easier to edit (not to mention neater.) Once done a page or two of writing, I print out a copy, no matter how rough, just to have it. For taking notes or jotting down ideas, I actually prefer handwriting. Writing by hand makes me focus and the flowing motion is very soothing, almost hypnotic, so I go into a kind of creative trance. Plus, I never know when inspiration may strike, so it’s best if I carry a notebook and a pencil with me everywhere so I don’t have to worry about electricity or booting up a computer. I just open the book, write down whatever I need, and voila! Really, you can’t beat the immediacy of pen and paper. If I do happen to write down a scene in my notebook, I transfer it to the computer when I can. But mostly I use notebooks to record me talking to myself. That’s pretty much what my notes are, me asking myself questions and writing down the answers or ideas I come up with. It’s a good way to find holes in your story or questions that need to be answered or fleshed out in order to attain realism. And really, handwriting is good for discipline. It forces you to practice neatness and order following certain rules. Creativity may blossom freely, but a little discipline in recording it never hurt anyone.
So, my rough notes are handwritten in a notebook, scenes and editing are recorded in the computer. How do you go about your writing? Are you an old-fashioned purist who writes by hand until it’s time for the final product? Are you a techno-phile who uses typing exclusively? Or are you a hybrid of both schools like I am? And if you are a hybrid (as I imagine many of you writers are), what part of your process is done in each realm?