Last week, my grandmother (who knows I do a lot of writing) asked me, “Do you write straight onto the computer or do you write by hand first?”
I explained that I write almost everything on a computer now – but six or seven years ago, I used to draft fiction, in particular, by hand. My grandmother (and my mother) both write everything with pen and paper, then type it up onto a computer.
In part, I’m sure this is a generation gap – I was using computers from the age of three, so typing feels very natural to me. I prefer to write straight onto the screen in most cases, as – for me – it’s faster than drafting by hand. (The opposite is true for my mother and grandmother, who are two-finger typists.) Even when I’m drafting fiction and doing a lot of rewriting, I work straight onto the computer, print out the manuscript, then start again with a blank document.
I expect Daily Writing Tips’ readers will fall into both camps – those who write most naturally on paper and those who find a computer easier. However, I suspect we may have more of the latter amongst the readership (you’re all reading this online, so you’re a pretty computer-savvy lot).
I want to consider some of the differences between writing with pen and paper and writing with a keyboard, and encourage you to occasionally revert to “old fashioning” writing.
Your writing style may change
If you write fiction in particular – though bloggers might also find this an interesting experiment – try drafting your next piece by hand. Do you find that your style is any different? You might feel more creative when writing in pen-and-ink, without the starkness of formal-looking type on a computer screen. Or you might feel that writing on paper makes your work awkward or stilted.
You can doodle and mind-map on paper
I know there are lots of great computer programs for mind-mapping, but when I’m generating ideas, nothing beats pen-and-paper! It’s incredibly easy to switch between text, doodles, diagrams, drawing lines and boxes, even using different coloured pens. Especially if you have an artistic bent, you may find that doing some of your planning on paper helps you to generate some new ideas.
You can’t delete on paper
One of the reasons some of us (myself included) feel less inhibited when writing on a computer is that it’s very easy to delete mistakes or false tangents. But the lack of a “delete” button on your sheet of paper can be an asset. Maybe you keep that crazy idea in which sparks off something else in the redrafting … or maybe you just take a bit more time over your sentences and word choices.
You can take a notebook anywhere
Even if you have a light, portable laptop, it’s not always convenient to carry it around with you. But getting comfortable with writing by hand means you can just pop a notebook and pen into your bag when you go out – and when you’re waiting for a bus, or having a coffee, you can add to your latest article or story.
You’ll force yourself to do more rewriting
If you habitually draft pieces on the computer, it’s easy to get lazy. Whether it’s an essay for school, a short story for a magazine submission, a poem, a blog article … you might tell yourself the first draft will do. Because editing is so simple and clean on-screen, we sometimes end up just deleting a few words or shifting sentences around, when what the piece really needs is a total rewrite. If you draft using pen and paper, you’ll have to type the whole thing up – and you’ll probably end up making a lot of changes in the process.
Why not give pen and paper a try for your next piece of writing – and let us know what difference it makes to you! (If you already plan and draft everything on paper, try working straight onto a computer instead.)