In my writing group, I often hear complaints when I suggest we try a written exercise as opposed to one with a laptop or other computer device. I have said it before and I’ll likely say it again: writing by hand is important and valuable to anyone working with their own creativity, be they writers or other artists. In fact, I would argue that writing by hand is useful for everyone, and not just creatives. That does not mean that writing with a keyboard isn’t valuable in its own way too, but that one shouldn’t avoid handwriting altogether.
Here are the five most common complaints and suggestions on how to address them:
“I never write by hand.”
I’m surprised by how many people say this to me. What’s even more surprising is how many of them aren’t Gen Y folks. The stereotype is that Gen Y folks only type, and that Gen X and Boomers are more “old school.” I haven’t seen this stereotype borne out.
My response to it is simple: give it a try. Even if you only use it for writing exercises, think of them like you do the gym or music drills. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
“I write too slow, and forget all the things I want to say.”
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our minds become fragmented by technology. I watch people try to have a conversation during writing group, or even just write. Smart phones buzz and people immediately look at them, even mid-sentence, to see what they say. Like coffee-fueled five-year-olds, we have lost the ability to carry one thought in our minds for longer than a few moments before we are distracted, like the dog in the movie “Up.” This isn’t healthy, nor is it good for our intelligence.
Writing by hand slows us down so that we can catch up with ourselves. Typing on a computer means that we are staring at a clock, are prone to distraction from Facebook, email, and other programs, and that we can go at the speed of hyper instead of the speed of the hand. There is a reality within us that we can only hear when we slow down enough to listen.
“My hand cramps.”
This is a reasonable complaint. Like any other physical activity, stretch often and build up your strength. Maybe only write for fifteen minutes the first time, then work your way up to a longer session.
“I can’t read my own writing, so why bother?”
It’s like when we were taught to write way back when we were kids. Just practice. You’ll get better with time and attention.
“It’s more efficient to type.”
The objective isn’t to be efficient, it’s to see what we have to say. Efficiency is not the most important goal for a writer; clarity is.
Give it a try. You might be surprised what you learn.
Next time: “In Defense of the Pen”