Pros and Cons of Writing Long Hand

Sunday 12 April 2015 by

I, like most writers I think, have something of a notebook problem. As in, I have about a hundred of them, all with one or two pages used in them and they’re all very beautiful, but really do I need three cupboards full of them? No.

I’m on a bit of a spring clean kick at the moment, and as part of it, I’m trying to use up a few of these beautiful notebooks by writing longhand. I used to write everything longhand before I had a computer of my own (one computer, three siblings plus parents = not a lot of time on the computer) and I’ve been rediscovering some of the pleasures, and pains of it.

Pros

Aside from using up all your notebooks (and all those millions of pens you have lying around, or is that just me?), there are a number of benefits to writing long hand:

No Editor

While you write, you can’t go back and fiddle with sentences. You have to keep going. It’s a great way of turning off the internal editor and getting some words out. The quality might not be great, but you’re making progress, and that’s sometimes hard when you have infinite capacity to tweak that first paragraph you wrote.

Editing as you Type Up

When it comes to transferring your work to the computer, you’ll have to go through it all fairly slowly. You’ll see it from a brand new perspective. Those clumsy sentences will ring out, and the problematic scenes can be fixed as you go along.

Portable Writing

In the age of smart phones and iPads, it’s easier and easier to write on the go. But when the power’s run out, or the signal is rubbish and you’re scared your masterpiece will never make it to the Cloud (this happened to me once, and I’ve been super wary ever since) there’s nothing like a notebook for some old fashioned writing. As long as you have enough pages and pens, you won’t struggle to get your ideas down. And as long as you don’t leave your notebook somewhere and lose it, you won’t lose your work either.

Time away from your Computer

A notebook doesn’t have internet. It also doesn’t have a screen, so as well as your procrastination muscles, you’ll be giving your eyes a rest.

Cons

There are some downsides, however…

Hand Cramp

I was working in a profession where I had to write by hand a lot. But for the last few months, I haven’t had to, and ouch my hand really hurt the first few days of writing manually. It does get easier though. The more you do it, the more those muscles that probably haven’t had a lot to do since school start to remember what they’re for.

Time Consuming

I can write pretty quickly, but I can type a hell of a lot faster. Writing by hand slows the process down, which can be a good thing – it gives you more time to think about the words you’re choosing – but it does mean that your writing gets increasingly illegible as you struggle to get the ideas out as quickly as you’re thinking of them.

Can be Difficult to Correct Mistakes

I don’t mean little ones like spelling errors, big ones like missing scenes. As a rule, you shouldn’t be doing this often if you’re trying to switch off that editor – but sometimes a really cool idea strikes you, and you don’t want to forget about it. Like when you think of a great piece dialogue that makes sense of something that happens later. On the computer, you’d go back and add it in, but in a notebook you have to use a system of stars and arrows, which can become tricky to follow.

You can follow Loralei on Twitter: @LAHaylock

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