Writing Writing Process
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Writing by Hand Versus Writing on the Computer

Do you favor writing by hand or on the computer?   Painted-printed-blue-401-l

This may well be one of those never-the-twain-shall-meet dichotomies.   

We all start out writing by hand as little kids, and for many of us that remains the preferred method of composition.  For years I've taken lots of notes by hand before I switch to the computer.  I even wrote half of a novel by hand once.  (I ended up abandoning that novel, so I'm not sure what that says.)  

And, for years, I've been a proponent of writing by hand when journaling or free writing.  There's a more direct connection between hand and brain when you are writing by hand.  And sometimes it is helpful to step away from the computer with paper and pen to write.  (For other benefits, read this article.)

But lately I've been rethinking my position.   I've noticed that when I write by hand, I get bored quickly and can't seem to force my pen across the paper.  I quickly get into a this is stupid, why am I bothering frame of mind and I quit.  A client and I were talking about this yesterday and she said when she writes by hand what comes out on the page feels very juvenile and not at all adult.  I love that–I know just what she means.

And another problem is that my handwriting is increasingly difficult to read.  (Just ask my husband how hard it is to read my grocery lists.)  When I write something that I want to keep, it is hard to find it in the scrawl of my journal pages.  And often when I go back, I'm unimpressed with what I wrote anyway.  I've read that some people take all their free writes and put them onto the computer, but I simply don't have time for that.  So many of my free writes are not about much of anything and I use them as warm-up exercises.

A month or so ago I bought a book called Writing From the Senses: 59 Exercises to Ignite Creativity and Revitalize Your Writing.  I've not made it very far in the book, but what I read in the introduction changed my writing life.  Here's what Laura Deutsch, the author of the book, wrote:

"A word on whether it's better to write by hand or on the computer.  Many people feel there's a heart connection when writing by hand.  I, too, feel a difference.  Yet, I usually write on my computer because I can write faster and because I can save my freewrites."

So, apparently all it takes for me is for one person to give me permission because ever since I read that I've been off and running, doing freewrites and writing practice on the computer.  Last week, I did a journal entry of sorts on the computer–I wanted to remember an experience I'd had and hand writing it just seemed way too onerous.  

Now I'm a huge proponent of freewriting on the computer.  And, the thought occurs that this may be a phase I need to go through and that some day I'll get back to writing a lot by hand.  But, whatever–I don't care.  As long as words are getting on the page one way or another, I'm happy!

What is your favorite way to write?  Please leave a comment.

Photo by brokenarts.

0 thoughts on “Writing by Hand Versus Writing on the Computer

  1. J.D.

    The writing lore is filled with tales of authors rejecting change. When he saw the power of computers, James Michener bought all he could of his favorite typewriter. John Grisham wrote his first 15 books of the same computer. I’m about to change word processors. That news will hardly shake the foundations of modern mystery writing, but for me, it is scary. We all hope to find our voice. Once we latch on to a version that works well, that flows, then I can see that change would be terrifying.

  2. D young

    I agree, writing by hand has a much bigger connection between heart and mind. I’ve never felt my hand written stuff is more juvenile than what I’ve typed on the computer, but I agree..typing is quicker. I’m probably split on each idea. Like holding an actual book in the hand over reading on my iPad – writing by hand needs to be kept sacred to a point. There is a time and a place for each. Do what works. But don’t completely snuff out the “manual” way. Certain things must not be completely replaced.

  3. D young

    Changing word processors..? Is there something other than Microsoft word? Or am I completely in the dark here..?

  4. J.D.

    Scrivener on a mac. Of course, on the plus side, it i
    s compatible with Word.

  5. Charlotte Dixon

    Moral of the story: we writers are surprising stodgy. And superstitious. Good luck with the switch.

  6. Charlotte Dixon

    Let me know how you like it. I was all enthusiastic about Scrivener and then I got stuck with it–too big of a learning curve. But I keep thinking I should try again, its got so many features.

  7. Charlotte Dixon

    I will never give up writing by hand–and ultimately, you’re right–you’ve just got to do what works.

  8. Patty

    You crack me up Charlotte…”apparently all it takes for me is one person to give me permission.” So been there!

    Many things I write on the computer but I did a month of free writing by hand and that seemed like nirvana. I think it’s more about the screen than typing vs hand writing. I just get burned out sitting in front a screen for long periods of time. But if I was writing novels like you I’m pretty sure I’d be writing by computer.

  9. J.D.

    I write exclusively on a computer, but I see your point about “sitting.” I wanted to add that no method is more portable than writing by hand. Pencils are not concerned about where the nearest plug is or how bright the sun shines.

  10. Charlotte Dixon

    I love your month of free writing nirvana, Patty! I’m experimenting with doing writing practice on the computer every morning and this week all these freewrites have gone right into a story I’m writing, so that makes me happy! And I do know I’ll go back to writing by hand at some point as well.

  11. Charlotte Dixon

    Excellent point, J.D. That’s one of the best things about being a writer–we can do it anywhere!

  12. Amanda Moon

    I write almost exclusively on tbe computer. Every so often, though, I will crave handwriting. But it never takes much, a few days of journaling, a single attempt to capture something and my brain moving too fast for my hand…and I’m back on the computer.

    With handwritten journals, I never feel like I can be completely honest, I’m always afraid of someone finding and reading. On the computer, I can password protect private thoughts. (Not that I think any of my journaling is all that interesting to anyone else, but it makes me feel better!)

  13. Amanda Moon

    I LOVE scrivener!!!!! So very, very much! And there is. Windows version too, not just Mac.

  14. Charlotte Dixon

    That’s funny, I’m the opposite–my handwriting is so bad I know nobody will be able to read what I’ve written. And that’s part of the problem, it’s a challenge for me to read it as well.

  15. Charlotte Dixon

    Okay, okay, I’ll try it again. 🙂

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