On Writing By Hand

Every morning I wake and lie in bed for a moment, my mind scanning the day ahead.  And then it clicks: I'm writing! More specifically, I'm working on a novel and the writing is going well.

This thought fills me with excitement and I jump out of bed.  (Delicately, so as not to shake the house.)

I drink a large glass of water, (12 ounces to be exact), then grab a cup of coffee and head to my current writing spot: a comfy chair in the corner of the living room.

And then I write the novel. 

By hand.

The old-fashioned way.

I work in various colors of ink, depending on which pen I grab.  All my words go into the same spiral-bound notebook, though I'm nearly finished with the first and will need to start a new one soon.

Some days I write three pages, others I write a paragraph.  Some days I read over scenes and add to them, others I think deep thoughts and then write. 

The point is, I'm making steady progress.

Sometimes I start out working on one scene and get an inspiration for a different one.  So I work on that.  My spiral is filled with notes and directions to myself, such as: "1A Scene in Car," or "3B Goes After Scene in Restaurant."  I'm doing my best to stay organized as I write, but this is one of the disadvantages of writing by hand.  And it's also one of the things I love–the sheer crazy rawness of the actual pages, with addendums and arrows and additions and crossed out words.

I laugh whenever I think about or working on my novel in this way.  I laugh when I discuss it with other people (as I have been doing with clients and in my Get Your Novel Written Now class).  I don't know why my novel is coming out this way.  I only know that it is and that when I sat at the computer to write it, the words didn't flow, period. 

And now they are flowing, so who am I to argue with my muse?

I'm experiencing the pure joy of writing.  I feel freer writing this draft in this manner than I have in ages, and I'm allowing myself to go directions I wouldn't otherwise go.  (As for the quality, who knows?  I'm not worrying about that at the moment.)

By the way, during my writing sessions my husband wanders the house, getting ready for work.  My asthmatic dog, who is over a hundred in people years, coughs and hacks.  My cats meow.  The radio is on.  My friend texts.  All this is happening as I write and still I keep going.  I could easily move to the chair in my quiet office buy my muse demands I sit in the living room.

And so I do, and marvel at how different this process is from the last time I wrote a novel. 

Every book is different.  Everyone's writing process varies.  I can give you tips on what works for me and others most often, but to be successful you've got to find your own way.

Find yours and get started.

How about it?  What's your process?  Does it stay the same or vary?

10 Responses to On Writing By Hand

  1. Patty/Deep Artistry Studio 10/19/2012 at 19:57 #

    This made me smile, Charlotte. You are a great writer, and you took me right into your world, your morning full of color and discovery and creating. And all this technology we have, yet getting back to basics can be so joyful. Today I was in the garden, watering the new lavender with the hose. And I thought: why don’t I put a few more drips out here, it would be so much easier. Save so much time. But then I realized I’d miss watching these baby plants grow, miss walking barefoot in the grass, miss splashing water on my feet, miss the carpet of leaves that’s fallen from the birch trees!

  2. Jessica Baverstock 10/20/2012 at 03:53 #

    Your posts are always very timely. I’ve just been thinking about this too.

    I have all my prep done for my current short story and I have a previous draft to work off but the words *really* aren’t flowing. It took me two separate writing sessions to write the first sentence.

    The first draft flowed very quickly on the computer, but I think this next draft has to be handwritten at least to begin with. I don’t see any other way around it.

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one. It’s so true, writing changes depending on the medium used – even a change in pen/pencil can be the difference between a complete impasse and an unstoppable flow of words.

    Novels, drafts and even writing sessions all seem to have their own set of circumstances under which they work best. The trick is finding them.

  3. Karen 10/20/2012 at 05:53 #

    Charlotte, your post certianly spoke to me. I love getting words on the paper with a pen. That’s how I started back writing after years of writer’s block. I would write by hand a scene one day and the next type it into a word document. I have piles of spiral notebooks where I journal. What do you do with your collections of notebooks? Mine are in a plastic tub stuck in the closet.

  4. Charlotte Dixon 10/20/2012 at 08:13 #

    Patty, I'm preening under all your compliments!  Thank you!  And I love the analogy to watering.  I think you've hit on the reason for my joy at doing the novel this way–all this technology and yet here I am, back to pad and paper.  I just finished another writing session this morning and the only word I can find to describe it is glorious.  When I'm writing, I'm joyful and happy, no doubt about it.

  5. Charlotte Dixon 10/20/2012 at 08:23 #

    I agree, Jessica, that the trick to finding the flow for a project is to find what works best.  And to do that, I think we need to be really open to whatever comes.  Today I'm going to spend time transferring handwritten pages to the computer.  Part of me is groaning about it.  And if I had thought a lot about this part of the process, I might have stopped myself.  So I'm glad I didn't.  I'm just loving this process of writing by hand.  Good luck on your short story!

  6. Charlotte Dixon 10/20/2012 at 08:30 #

    I have tubs and tubs full of my journals.  Why, I don't know, because even I can barely read them when I go back to them.  I'll probably add these spirals to the stack.  I actually love the feel of the spiral, it's like holding raw treasure in my hands!  So one way or another, I'll save them.  I get to choose another one at the store today!  I know that other writers can appreciate my excitement over that.

  7. dyoung 10/21/2012 at 07:06 #

    Simplistic purity. That’s what I got from this post. Thank you for allowing us to know it’s ok to revert to the basics. It’s refreshing, and can lend to more creativity flowing when we do what just feels right!

  8. Charlotte Dixon 10/21/2012 at 08:11 #

    Yes, creativity is all about doing what feels right.  And yet so often we stop ourselves from doing that, thinking there's another way.  This experience of writing my novel by hand is liberating me from all of that and it is wonderful! 

  9. Sherlyn 10/25/2012 at 04:52 #

    I enjoyed this post. Being a teen, I may not have written as much as you and other writers have, but since I was a little girl I always wrote with pencil and paper in those Creative Writing classes. Little did I realise this has stayed a habit up till now. In June, I participated in a Hunger Games short story contest organised by the local library, and found that pencil and paper worked wonders for me still (even though it was 3 days away from the submission deadline and I had wasted the past week trying to get inspiration for the story while using a laptop). I wrote crazily for those 3 days with pencil and paper; inspiration just kept flowing! I so agree that what’s comfortable is still the best. In this age filled with so much technology, it’s easy to forget that sometimes, simple details and/or things are just what we need to accomplish our tasks.

  10. Charlotte Dixon 10/25/2012 at 08:38 #

    Sherlyn, I love your story about writing like mad for the competition.  And, I have to say, you write very well.  I would never have guessed that you were a teenager if you'd not said anything.  I love having your viewpoint on this, thanks for commenting!

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