Notes Of A Storyteller: My Unexpected Detour Into Handwriting

Last week my laptop stopped charging. No matter how many times I jammed the power cord into it, the machine refused to acknowledge any connection to the power outlet below the table. Rage began to build. I was trying to write the latest chapter in The Stand (Part Two of The Kingdom Trilogy). Already that day I had met some frustrations; this was the last straw. Quietly and unexpectedly, an idea came to me.

“I say!” I thought. “Why not grab a notebook and handwrite this chapter?”

Why not, indeed? Dozens of classics were written this way before the typewriter. Shakespeare his plays and sonnets longhand. Unless I am mistaken, Dante made it through the whole Divine Comedy with a standard medieval quill pen. Monks in monasteries used pens and pigments to produce prettier books than several modern tomes I have opened. Even after the typewriter, handwriting has stuck around. Truman Capote told The Paris Review that he wrote whole drafts of stories with a pencil, and then revised them in pencil. Vladimir Nabokov even wrote on index cards!

So when I fetched a couple of notebooks out of my room, and made my way to the nearest table, I felt that I was in good company. Three hours later, I decided that I liked it. In fact, I didn’t use my laptop much over the weekend. I have two chapters with pens and pencils so far, and I started a third yesterday. Could this be an addiction?

Time will tell, but there’s one big thing I like about it so far. It reduces distraction. Do you have any idea how many things I can be doing on my laptop other than writing? With a few mouse clicks, I could be chatting on Facebook with my college friends, scrolling through Philosoraptor memes, or watching live videos of House of Heroes concerts on YouTube. Knowing that while I am trying to write literature is not a good thing.

Handwriting eliminated that mental vacuum. I can’t log on to Tumblr with a piece of paper. It’s just me, my thoughts, and my will to bring them into reality. That simplicity is refreshing.

It showed in my writing, too. This morning I transcribed one of the chapters I wrote longhand. As always, I could see things I wanted to fix, but there was a lot that I liked. There was a new spark in the prose that I hadn’t seen in the last few chapters I had typed on my laptop.

For now, I am deeply satisfied with writing longhand. I wonder if I should keep this up for the rest of my novel. I might even experiment with college papers this fall. You should give it a try, if you haven’t already!


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