On Writing Longhand

Featuring the Pilot Metropolitan pen that A got me for Christmas. I haven’t used a nib pen in ages!

I’ve been writing and editing via my PC for so long that it still feels weird to be writing new things longhand.  The last major project I wrote longhand was The Phoenix Effect; the trilogy was written completely on the computer, using MS Write and MS Word.  I still have the 3″ floppies containing all the early .wri files, come to think of it.  I did do a lot of the world building and the brainstorming longhand, mostly on scrap paper from work (these were the Yankee Candle years), but the new words were all generated downstairs in the Belfry, tapping away on my PC.

Even later incomplete and/or trunked projects like Love Like Blood, Can’t Find My Way Home and Two Thousand and even the earlier versions of Walk in Silence were started or at least primarily written on the computer.  I liked working that way for varying reasons: I could chart my daily word count and my production in general; I could edit while writing when it was clear it was needed; I could open multiple documents for reference use and note taking; and peripherally, I could keep myself amused and entertained with my mp3 collection playing in the background.

Writing on the PC can be a great thing, and I still enjoy it, but over the years I’ve realized its limitations as well.  I have a penchant for distraction, whether it’s multiple games of FreeCell and Solitaire, futzing around with the tags and the arrangement of my mp3 collection, or the continued refreshing of my Twitter feed.  I’ve also been hiding myself in Spare Oom far too long.  And then there’s the fact that I already work from home, so I’m spending most of the day back there already, sitting on my duff for eight hours.  Spare Oom may not be a man cave, but over the years it began to feel like I was using it as a hideaway from the world.  It’s the one room in the apartment that has the best view (see the banner picture over at Walk in Silence), but I don’t look out that window nearly as much as I should.


Starting up my personal journal a few years back was my way of combating all this.  Its original purpose was to divert my kvetching habits from social media to paper and curtail them somewhat, and it worked almost immediately.  I also made it a habit to write its entries away from my desk.  For the last year or so I’ve been writing in it during my midmorning break, sitting on the loveseat across the room where I can glance out the window as well.  Much to my own surprise, I’ve kept it up consistently since then, skipping only weekends and vacations.

Early last year, when it was clear that I’d be wrapping up the trilogy project by year’s end, I started writing the new Mendaihu Universe story.  This was the first new story I’d be starting completely longhand, in a yellow-covered 3-subject spiral notebook I picked up at Target.  This too was kept up consistently until late last year when I put it aside to self-release the trilogy.  Once that project is finally wrapped, I’ll be able to pick it up again.  In the meantime, though, I’ve been starting new projects longhand, such as this latest version of Walk in Silence.  My return to artwork and renewed dedication to weekly poetry have finally torn me away from the PC as well.  In addition to that, I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to work more often on my laptop out in the living room (where I am currently typing this) if I need to use MS Word.  And yesterday afternoon during the two football playoff games I sat at the dining table, writing a few WiS pages.

I’d commented elsewhere that I don’t plan on turning myself into a Luddite writer; I just feel the need to change up the habits to keep everything fresh.  I can view using the PC as a positive work process rather than a distraction or a slog.  I’m not chained to it, and shouldn’t be.  When I was working on the trilogy back in the early ’00s, working on the PC was something I looked forward to as an evening process, maybe even as ‘going to the office’ for my writing career, and I kept that separate from the rest of my life.  Returning to longhand after so long is sort of a return to that.

I’m curious to see where it takes me next.

1 thought on “On Writing Longhand”

  1. Very cool! I am in the middle of your first book right now (enjoying it, of course) and I am also eager to see where this takes you!

    I have always written, even though I am a visual artist, I still have tons of ideas. I still remember the time when writing out ideas on the computer felt SLOW in comparison to writing longhand. Now that has changed (heh – sweat drop).

    So, I have started up Morning Pages, which is a terrific exercise for processing things you didn’t know you needed to process! And I think a good portion of it is because it’s done by hand! I don’t know that it would have the same effect on the computer.

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