March 24th, 2016

Hand writing

[NOTE: This is a lightly-edited repeat of a post of mine that was first published in 2008.]

This Atlantic article by Nicholas Carr is a recommended read, about the reported loss of concentration and patience for absorbing longer works that he believes comes from too much internet Googling.

I was especially intrigued by an anecdote from the article about how the medium by which a person writes, rather than reads, can change an author’s style. Carr relates how Nietzsche’s work underwent a transformation as a result of the typewriter:

Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter—a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, to be precise. His vision was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become exhausting and painful, often bringing on crushing headaches. He had been forced to curtail his writing, and he feared that he would soon have to give it up. The typewriter rescued him, at least for a time….One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”

You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”

I’m with Nietzsche on that one. Before the word processor and then the computer, I used to compose all my papers in longhand and correct them the same way, with many crossouts and additions. Once I was satisfied (or a few hours before the paper was due, whichever came first) I’d type it on my Smith-Corona, using whiteout or erasable typing paper to correct the inevitable typos. It felt like a laborious process, and it often was; I’m not the greatest typist, and Spellcheck was hardly a gleam in anyone’s eye.

So when the instantly correctable word processor and then the computer became readily available, it seemed almost miraculous. How wonderful to watch the lines jump into place when a word was removed, magically and seamlessly closing the gap.

But I noticed that my writing was changing in some subtle fashion. It was difficult to be as imaginative as before; the thoughts seemed more stilted, although the words themselves flowed onto the page far more efficiently.

But I found to my dismay that I simply could not write poetry that way, although I could edit my poems. I had to write poetry longhand. Not that much of a hardship, really, since poems tend to be relatively short.

It seemed that there was an actual physical difference in the way the hand accessed the brain and the creative juices depending on whether that hand was writing or typing. Why this should be so I do not know, but it has persisted. To this day, I write poetry only by hand, although humorous verse (like my song parodies on this blog) can easily be accomplished on the computer.

I’m not alone in my assertion that writing by hand is a very different animal than typing, and a much more emotional animal at that. Here are some of the thoughts of others on the matter, very similar to my own experience (the passage is from Daniel Chandler’s “The Phenomenology of Writing by Hand”):

Many writers have alluded to the importance of handwriting in their thinking and writing….Fay Weldon declared: ‘I choose to believe that there is some kind of mystic connection between the brain and the actual act of writing in longhand’ (Hammond, 1984). And Graham Greene commented that ‘Some authors type their works, but I cannot do that. Writing is tied up with the hand, almost with a special nerve’ (Hammond, 1984). The anthropologist Jack Goody (1987) wrote that ‘Nothing surpasses pen and paper as being “good to think with”‘. And Rebecca West reported that she used a pencil ‘When anything important has to be written… I think your hand concentrates for you.’…John Barth favours the fountain pen, commenting that: ‘there’s something about the muscular movement of putting down script on the paper that gets [the] imagination back in the track where it was’ (Plimpton, 1987).

And they say it so much better than I have. But that’s because I’m not writing this by hand.

27 Responses to “Hand writing”

  1. LTEC Says:

    Nabokov complains about the drudgery of dealing with manuscripts. One wonders if he would have written differently if he’d had a word processor.

  2. sdferr Says:

    Related I might suppose for purposes of speculation, doodling at the piano (or earlier keyboards) became a means of creative music making — so eventually music “writing” in that manner of speaking — all with temporal fits and starts included. Were similar developments of musical style accompanying this also?

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I believe you are describing the heart, head and hand connection. The heart is our motivation, i.e “where we are coming from”, the head our cognitive understanding and the hand manifests or actuates or ‘makes real’ what lies within.

    Typing is less ‘holistic’ (basically involving just the fingers, with the mind focusing upon the individual letters) while hand writing involves the entire hand in a coordinated movement that focuses the mind, upon the words.

    Typing is inherently ‘mechanical’ while handwriting more ‘organic’.

    I find that if I repeatedly go over what I’ve typed, asking myself as I reread it, “have I expressed myself clearly and well?”, that I make many corrections that greatly improve the coherence and flow of what I’m trying to say.

  4. K-E Says:

    I’m a published author. When I was younger, I did all of my writing in notebooks with pens and crossed things out, re-wrote them, etc. When word processing became all the rage, at first, I thought my creativity would suffer. Typing on a computer didn’t seem to connect me as well to my creative side.

    Decades later, I cannot say the same thing. I have written numerous short stories and novels that have gotten written much more quickly and with less mental anguish than ones I used to write by hand.

    I think it is because I can write so much faster through typing than through handwriting. My ideas and stories get down on paper faster with less time for self-criticism. I love it.

    I would never go back to handwritten. Sorry!

  5. blert Says:

    I brainstorm in cursive — or print — when I’m just brainstorming.

    Otherwise, it’s the keyboard.

    I resent spell check on the Internet defaulting, always, to the King’s English — not American spelling.

    If I’d wanted ‘laboured’ ‘colour’ I would have moved to London.

  6. Fred Says:

    loss of concentration and patience for absorbing longer works that he believes comes from too much internet Googling.?

    Now days its comes to realty that we have presentational candidates and all the surprises as all are social media edicts.

    So as part of “longer works” wonder if that made Gov. Bentley’s advisor so successful women, she then climes is gender problem?

  7. Bob_CA Says:

    Technology offers other possibilities to keyboard and pen and paper. One is dictating. Mark Twain and Charles Krauthammer are two writers that use(d) this method. I have tried computerized speech recognition software and it certainly uses a different part of my brain. Unfortunately the software like the Dragon products is always accurate enough to be interesting but not enough to be useful.

    Yet another possibility is writing on a tablet computer. This is very attractive to me because it makes my writing searchable by computer to help me locate things I have written in the past and it allows me to organize it and make copies easily so I do not lose my writing. Writing on a computer screen is not the same thing as on paper but it’s close.

    The search function is supported by programs like Onenote and Evernote, which do very creditable conversion of cursive handwriting to computer searchable text. The computer text stays in the background where it can be used in searches but the hand writing is displayed.

    Over the years I have spent literally thousands on computers tablets but they have always been too clumsy compared to a pad of paper. I have high hopes for the new Apple Ipad, which has a stylus (they call it a pencil) that is supposed to respond to pressure. It is also very light weight, less than a pound. I look forward to playing with it at an Apple store.

  8. T Says:

    I, too, agree with the kinesthetic connection, although, unlike Geoffrey Britain’s comment above, while I agree that cursive is inherently more holistic, I disagree with the (perhaps unintended) implication that the mechanics of typing are less inspirational. I don’t write poetry or create art, but I do write critically and I find that my thought process actually comes alive with my fingers at the keyboard. Perhaps it from having done it for half a century, and I’m far from a touch typist.

    I, too, repeatedly go over what I’ve typed and re-read, edit and correct text, but I think that is part of the creative process, not necessarily a mechanical roadblock. Think, for example, of a Beethoven handwritten manuscript with all of the corrections as he worked out musical ideas. It’s a window into the mind, the creative process and perhaps even the soul. I don’t think the mechanical process of typing is exclusively a barrier to this although it may alter it.

    One experience I will add. In the mid-eighties, i.e., the early days of desktop computers and word-processing, a colleague and friend of mine had offered to act as a referral in a job search. He unexpectedly died in the course of my search and I was forced to remove his name from the list of references on my word-processed resume. It actually gave me great pause. Unlike simply crumpling up a piece of paper and throwing it in the trash (where the paper and his name would continue to exist for a while, even if only in a landfill) it felt almost as though I was wiping him out of existence all together. At the time, it literally gave me pause and was a very sobering experience.

    Today, by contrast, if the electronic text or image appears on the net, we can rest assured that it becomes virtually eternal. What a change!

  9. Artfldgr Says:

    Today there are people who have grown up and have barely written anything longhand. From baby to adult they rarely touched paper except the years where teachers forced them to to learn to write, while a table was in their crib and along side for when they are not tasked to not use them.

    Another change with typing happens when you cross the threshold of not needing to look at the keys and can type as fast as you think, the same way a musician plays an instrument but doesn’t think about fingerings (though its kind of mixed with breathing if your playing a breath instrument). They did not replace my keyboard at work, to make a long story short, until their was no more lettering on the keys – they were polished blank.

    not having the key lettering didn’t bother me much as i don’t need it to type, and i can type very fast as well. I started on a Manual Royal typewriter, and that was before i was 10. then came the IBM Selectric with the ball head, correction tape, and the feedback of a gun trigger for the keys. You would press, and unlike the strength needed for the Royal, it was quite lite. Then at some point your press would pass a threshold and it would engage, boom, with force to rock a light table, and be felt through a desk, spin the ball and slam it into the ribbon.

    But you could go so much faster on them, you never had to stop, and untangle keys that came too close in time and locked up. Talk about interrupting your thoughts. If you type slow you have to think slow, your thinking starts to follow the ability to type, as thinking ahead of that would necessitate a lot of backtracking and going forward again. pacing is easier on the brain.

    then came the computer, but not like people imagine if they didn’t see it or read about it. the ones that soaked the market were made for CRT based television, many finding it easier to convert the signal to broadcast channel 3 (or 4 on a switch) and put it on a TV. The sales person was always trying to justify the purchase of it by saying you could balance your checkbook, to which the frugal frau would say, but i can balance it now and it wont cost me a months pay…

    Reagan is a few years off… Science was vainglorious and something to be proud, not a paranoid scare fest in which we are all on the verge of imminent death by one of several thousand cuts, tipping points, and intergalactic solar farts

    As Neo kind of implies the bane of writing your thoughts is that you make mistakes. which is actually kind of interesting that despite you knowing exactly what you want to write and are thinking of, you make mistakes. Erasing on the Royal was a Royal PAIN, then came what amounted to white carbon paper slivers. you hit backspace, held the sliver between the ribbon and the paper, then hit the same letter to put a coat of white over it. invariably sometimes you would mistake that too, and do it several times if you were not that good a typist. then hit backspace again, and type the letter you want. no wonder publishing books and pulp exploded post this technology, just as photography has exploded with digital replacing film, and phone replacing camera.

    Cue the sound of angels

    that Selectric, well, the first of the correcting models had the ability to hit correct key, it would back up, a extra white ribbon would rise, the key you pressed before was remembered and typed, the black yellow red ribbon would drop, it would back up and position it and zoom you were on your way in a split second that sounded like some military weapon blowing hot air, whirring and boom-chacka as the system went.

    Then they came up with one that had a tiny screen, you typed the line, and when it was ok, you hit a key and committed it to the page. thought he damn screen must have been for midget typists who held their hands at chest level, cause the front panel slop was not easy if you werent one of those. [this is similar to the idea that portable computers with mouse pads are designed for chickens, not humans, because the buttons for the pad are at the back of the hand, not the left or right where your thumb actually is. i do not know if now this is like this for tradition, or they havent figured out that outside the design lab, the world is not full of chickens or other animals with thumbs in the right place]

    But of course by now this is the 70s and the drug culture was changing its choice. and so Micheal Nesbits mom (yes, he of the Monkees), invented white out – otherwise known as typewriter correction fluid. a moniker that made no sense to smart kids who realized the typewriter wasn’t getting fixed, but the page was.

    now, you could unscrew a tiny bottle in white (they had not yet branched out to other colors cause colored paper was very expensive and made your business reports look like kindergarten construction paper project). But the best part? the solvent used to float the titanium white, got you high. So now typing was a whole new experience that affected your content and flow.

    aren’t you glad i didn’t start with cuneiform?
    Why did you make it this far into this? 🙂

    well, the real thing that sold the computer at home and at work was word processing… later, the other big thing that was really super, was a spreadsheet called visicalc. (visicalc is so old, microsoft wont word correct it). Other than that eventually what drove the market of the modern eras great expansion by the efficiency of computing was gaming. gaming drive the makers to make faster machines that business didn’t think they needed. oh how many times i heard people say, why do we need color. later why do we need image graphics, aren’t vectors fine? then we would hear about those labs at MIT, were they had such stuff. hey! you know that they are using a Hayes smart modem that pushed 2k bits a second. im stuck with this 300 bit a second modem that was originally for a teletype machine, and my printer paper has holes on the sides, and comes in white and fat green lines. 180 characters to a line.

    the slope was set and when you weren’t playing a game, it was being used to make pseudo databases on computers with rudimentary imaging, but most important TYPING. you could type out letters, and you could save things to read, and all that. but for the most part, you really couldn’t link up unless it was point to point and most of this was transferred from box to box not with a modem which was way too hard for most people to set up (baud? bits? parity? correction bits? odd or even?)

    the main point was to make documents. some computers were tailored to just writing, and these were put in newspapers, and then shared drives… then telenet, and on and on it came… yet the selectric was still on the desk as printer tech was not that great and the only ways to get a great professional typed page would be banging it out on a relic that was quieter form of banga boom, still spit warm air, but you barely heard it whir.

    Cue the angel music one last time!

    and the heavens opened and some time passed and such a thing as spell check appeared. you could take your file, run it on a program, and it would tell you where the mistakes were. mouse? whats a mouse? but later full spell check in a windows machine where you could run more than one program.. not like DOS (dumb operating system was the joke). top companies were the first to try to automate, there were terminals, networked printers, boom…

    this story took less than 20 years to happen…
    from NOTHING but manual machines to stuff that is crude compared to today as tomorrow will make today look… but would be recognizable, and would be responsive enough that the technology would almost become invisible, and more common, and used by people without needing training, and be intuitive, and check things, and share things, and have enough resolution that you forget that its pixels.

    And every step along the way that moved ones behavior had an affect on writing, just as future software that can understand speech (but has a long way to go as pointed out above), will cause the typed word to die just as the written word has died (and handwriting), just as the scanners that they are starting to fiddle with will be able to sense the letter and now you don’t have to talk (and that’s without some intrusive chip that will be too irresistible to not have given what benefit it offers for the user, unless a bit more totalitarian, and its what benefit it offers the state)

    one day we may be old enough to say to some kid that we used to move our fingers to make letters appear, and images happen.

    to which the kid will say fuck off and mind your own business
    to which you just lean back and remember the good old days


  10. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    I write for a living — legal writing for a court — and I’ve also done other, more personal writing in various forms, non-fiction articles, stories, and a couple of novels published a long time ago. I could not possibly do legal writing by hand. I think my way through a legal problem as I write about it, editing and rewriting and deleting and moving stuff around and deleting it again for days, if I have to, until the ideas make sense and the language flows properly. I need the power, versatility and speed of the computer for that. If I had to do it by hand it would take forever and consume stacks of legal pads, and I wouldn’t be able to keep track of my own trains of thought.

    Creative writing is entirely different. There really is something powerful about the link between the moving hand that forms the words and the mind that dreams up the ideas. It’s not always clear which is driving which. At first I couldn’t do anything creative on the computer (or the typewriter before that – yes, that’s how old I am.) The machine seemed too sterile, and the ideas wouldn’t take root and grow. That changed when I wrote my novels, just because they were too long. But I always did notes and first drafts of each scene by hand, and I’d work by hand if I was stuck and needed to work out a plot problem. To this day, I still need a pencil or pen in my hand to write a poem or anything personal.

    But as I use the computer more and more, I’ve noticed that my handwriting has suffered. In recent years it’s gotten harder to write clearly and form the letters by hand — I leave out letters or write them in the wrong order, even as I type faster and faster on the computer and don’t make the same mistakes there. I haven’t written any fiction recently, and I wonder sometimes, as my handwriting seems to deteriorate, whether there’s a parallel atrophy happening in the part of my brain that used to process the creative writing that came from my pen.

  11. Ralph Kinney Bennett Says:

    I’m glad you resurrected this little essay and grateful for the thoughts it has elicited. I have been a journalist/editor all my adult life — major newspapers, a major magazine, the Internet. I have always maintained that the two most important courses I ever took (as far as their “payoff”) were Latin and touch-typing. Geoffrey Britain has a point re hand, heart and brain, but I would suggest (as have others here) that typing is no more “mechanical” than pen or pencil. It is a device, a means, to expression — to synthesizing the work of the heart and the brain. I have found typing my thoughts onto electronic paper almost as fast as the words come to mind not only efficient but exhilarating. I well remember the transition from typewriter to ELECTRIC typewriter to word processor and finding each a decided improvement. But during the creative process I often find myself picking up my trusty fiber tip pen and legal pad to work through a particular thought or passage, sometimes for pages and pages of longhand. And while I edit quite a bit on the screen, I always do my final edits pen in hand, on a printed copy — using, of course, the best self-editing tool of all, reading the copy aloud. For me that is still the best way to clear out the verbal underbrush and hone the sentences and paragraphs. Yes, sometimes writing is — as Robert Mitchum once said of acting — “like carrying anvils upstairs.” At those times I sometimes let the “mechanics” take over and begin furiously typing something, anything, onto the screen just to get the juices flowing and get into a writing rhythm. (Hm-m-m; maybe that’s what all the above reads like — furious mechanics!) To me, the real blessing is being able to go back and forth, pen to keyboard, and finally seeing words on crisp paper or a glowing screen. Thanks, Neo, for the variety your fertile mind brings to your on-line Salon.

  12. chuck Says:

    The thing that I noticed in the early 90’s was that scify novels got a lot longer, going from a couple of hundred pages to four hundred and up; I called them word processor books. Some novels these days will run more than eight hundred pages. That increase may be due to a change in style, but I suspect part of it is that it is easier to write long books than it was. Often the content isn’t that much more as far as events go, but there is a lot more descriptive filler. Because I read mostly for relaxation, I’ve come to the point where, if the book is any good at all, I rate it by cost per word. That lets me know how many bedtime hours I get for the money.

  13. chuck Says:

    It occurs to me that the increase in scify novel length may also have been due to a change in publishing. Whereas most novels used to be serialized in the pulps before being issued as books, it is now usual for novels to go direct to book form. That is even more the case with self published novels on Amazon. A related change is that short stories, novelettes, and novellas have pretty much disappeared, being replace by trilogies at a minimum and with long series becoming common. I suppose blog essays are another consequence of the change in publishing platform.

  14. T Says:

    “But as I use the computer more and more, I’ve noticed that my handwriting has suffered. In recent years it’s gotten harder to write clearly and form the letters by hand . . . .” [Mrs. Whatsit]

    Yes, me too, although I never contributed it to the fact that I was writing less and less cursive. I just assumed that it was from the kind of minor arthritic maladies that come from getting older. I do wonder if it related to writing less.

  15. Minta Marie Morze Says:

    Thanks, Artful and Neo!

    First, Neo, I think some of it might be that we use two hands to type, with both sides of the brain, but only one hand to write cursive, with one side of the brain. Moreover, typing on a keyboard is a matter of tapping another “tap” with each letter, but handwriting is forming words out of letters with a wide array of movements and feedback of watching the word slowly form, the individual letters as you write, and then the word. The whole experience of handwriting is different from tapping keys. And there is also that when you are writing with a rhythm of meter in your head, when you form the words in handwriting you are feeling the syllables as they form on the paper, your brain keeping track subconsciously of your chosen rhythm. I find that as I write in a meter by hand, I automatically conform my choice of words to the rhythm and even use two syllables in my mind when I write something like “changed”, changing the word in my head to “change-ed” if needed. I don’t do it the same way when I type it.

    Artful, a great trip down memory lane. My first memories (I was born in 1949) of my older brothers typing with clickity sounds, a mild expletive, paper being torn from the typewriter, crumpled paper being discarded, another sheet being rolled into the typewriter, and more clickety noises. This would be the routine all night long until the term paper or whatever was written. Typewriters, with their clickety-click and swear-word-crumple. And then the teacher putting a pin through the page numbers to see they all lined up, and the problem with justifying margins (by adding spaces, and knowing how to divide words with a hyphen, and leaving the correct space for footnotes to fit at the bottom of the page, and controlling the roller enough to put the footnote number a little above the passage. YUCK.) So as I grew, the smartest single class I ever took in school—at dear old Van Nuys Junior High in the San Fernando Valley, California—was typing. I have been grateful to that course my whole life. I earned a lot of money—we were desperately poor—typing people’s term papers and other things, too.

    I remember just about everything Artful mentions, including the dot-matrix printers and all capital letters, and then capital and regular letters, and all the exciting things computers brought (I’m an Apple person from the beginning) including a wordprocessing program that I think had the word “Star” in its name. Then going to a computer club meeting in the early 1990s and seeing Microsoft WORD for the first time, with the guy changing the fonts and editing some of it in front of my eyes. Pure Magic! I wanted it so much it was scary. But my first thought was I could never learn all the magic things. Of course, it’s easy to learn, but when I first saw it, it was like a treasure chest being opened before my eyes.

    Every year or so there would be something astonishing to add to our computing.

    Yet there is still, for me, a physical pleasure in handwriting, watching script or printed letters forming on the page as my hand moves over the surface, either like the normal school-kid letters (a sort of typical “girls” handwriting) through to calligraphy. There is a deep, emotional joy of changing a nib on a good pen and watching letters form on a nice vellum.

    I think the idea is to find a delight in having a whole toolkit of ways to express yourself. Computers have brought with them capabilities I couldn’t even imagine when I was a child, but I still value the old handwriting ways, too.

    By the way, the foresight of Vannevar Bush, in The Atlantic Monthly, in 1945, is fascinating to read, as he envisions the ideas that would later allow us to hyperlink and collect knowledge. It goes with the article Neo linked to Here is the hyperlink for his article:
    I think he would be staggered at what we can do, automatically, to and from sources from all over the world now. Instantly. I still marvel at it.

  16. miklos000rosza Says:

    I still do first drafts in longhand. Then a young woman named Amy (who refuses to accept a fee) types the next draft, and I revise from that. MS means that I can no longer type with my left hand, but I still handwrote my first drafts when I could type well.

    What do I write? I’m working on another novel now, having published with some success three and a collection of short stories. I also reviewed fiction for the L.A. Times Book Review for ten years.

    I’m a “cult author” at this point. One of the books has recently been optioned to possibly be made into an HBO-style series. Hollywood has optioned this work and others before, so far without anything reaching a screen.

    First drafts are crucial. I often write directly inspired by dreams, and so I keep a notebook next to my bed. “Delirium” seems to flow best onto a page when no noisy machinery intervenes.

  17. AesopFan Says:

    I used to use WordStar and VisiCalc.
    Am I really that old???

    Those of you publishing novels who don’t want to be “outed” on a blog — maybe Neo could set up a space to drop titles in anonymously.

    Good night, and good words to you —

  18. SCOTTtheBADGER Says:

    Being a Badger, I have no choice but to type, as claws get in the way of using a pencil.

  19. Logic Says:

    As one who takes pencil to paper when writing anything of consequence, I enjoyed reading this article and comments.

    For anyone who prefers writing by hand, especially for brainstorming, lectures and meetings, I suggest a low-tech/high-tech hybrid:

    I recently used this during a meeting with a retirement specialist (always ask if you can record first) and found it invaluable because I would have forgotten many of the things we discussed.

  20. TheRadicalModerate Says:

    I suspect that this has less to do with the motor differences between handwriting, old-timey typing, and word processing, and more to do with the speed at which the brain is emitting words. There’s a sweet spot: Too slow, and you’ll start questioning the flow of the words and what they mean, instead of concentrating on what you’re trying to say. Too fast, and writing becomes more like conversational speech. Just right, and you have time to reason out what you’re trying to say, and the best phrasing to say it.

  21. SLR Says:

    another twist… the culture helps cultivate the inventions such as writing styles and devices. re: westerners dreamed of robots and movies… and then…. invented them…

  22. PubliusII Says:

    I have terrible handwriting (lefty), and the physical effort of pushing a pen across the paper would quickly give me hand cramp.

    It’s a pen, not a pencil because my writing-hand passes over the lines just previously written, smearing the graphite making the palm of my hand filthy; ballpoint is OK because it dries quickly.

    Typewriters were liberation from the pain of handwriting, but of course fixing mistakes is slow and messy-looking, and everything has to be re-keyboarded for acceptible presentation.

    Word processors are a godsend. Period. Paragraph.

  23. Rex Says:

    I agree with Mrs. Whatsit and T. My handwriting has become much more crabbed and spasmodic since I began using a computer keyboard for most of my composition. I’ve read that John Updike switched back to pen and paper towards the end of his life.

    We homeschooled our children and taught them Spencerian penmanship, but it never took, and both of them (now ages 30 and 24) print everything that they write by hand.

  24. Billy Hollis Says:

    It’s not just writing. I teach designing to software developers, and one of the habits I have to break is the tendency to jump in front of a monitor and keyboard to do design tasks using automated design tools.

    Instead, I force them to do their first couple of rounds of design using pencil and blank paper. It wakes up a different part of their brain. They are more likely to use their imagination and quickly sketch out ideas that they would not take the time to do with a tool.

    Later phases of design can benefit from automated, computerized tools, but the idea generation phase needs something that you don’t need to think about how to use. Pencil and paper are by far the best fit I’ve found.

  25. pestilential Says:

    Perhaps this is why computer animation tends to look relatively soulless?

  26. John Blake Says:

    To glimpse ultra-laborious, handwritten editing in action, suggest reviewing Ezra Pound’s incredible 1920s markup of T.S. Eliot’s “Wasteland” draft.

  27. James Says:

    Stephen King wrote an article on how to be writer in (as I recall) 1983 that had several good tips. One of them was to set aside all reference materials, to include a dictionary. He cautioned that one had to preserve the writer’s trance. Write, then edit. Get if written down first, then pick it apart later.

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