Secret to Share: I Write Longhand





There, I’ve said it. I struggle to compose on the keyboard. I cannot plot on the keyboard. I spend more time deleting than creating on the keyboard. Staring at a blank page on a computer screen = no. Staring at a lined legal notepad = YES! Call it what you will, “strange quirky writer refuses to get with the times.” Old-fashioned, and change-adverse. Like a baseball pitcher who refuses to change his underwear or else spoil his winning streak. Well, maybe not quite like that.


I write with a pen, on legal pads, usually in bed, and always in cursive (I know, a dying art I’ve read). It’s the way my brain has always worked. Studying for exams in school, I would rewrite my notes, heck I’d rewrite the textbook if I found the time. My brain has a connection to my hand, my hand to the pen, the pen to the paper.


I judge my progress not by a word count at the bottom of the screen but by how many pens run out of ink (one so far on BAD MOJO, four on CHOSEN SOUL, three on HOPELIGHT) and how many notepads I can fill (lots).


If it matters, I do appreciate the trees that have been felled in pursuit of my dreams of a college education and a career as a writer.


Don’t get me wrong, I love my Macbook. Truly I do. But my computer is all about work: creating syllabi and grading electronic assignments and checking e-mail (couple hundred per day) and oh yes, editing. Let’s not forget editing. My scrawled notes have to end up in the computer some time, so the first round of edits happens while I’m typing them in, making the second round easier. In theory anyway.


And lets not forget that Macbook is also a gateway to the greatest time-suck of the universe: the internet. The glowing apple beckons me to Facebook, blog links of the world, Ebay, Twitter, Goodreads, and yes, Wikipedia. I also have an IPad now, which I can use to kill a good hour throwing a diverse array of birds at snorting green pig heads.


Hiding my electronic devices so I can compose on paper works for me. Maybe it will work for you. Give it a try some time. All you need is a good pen . . . some lined paper . . . a quiet room. Cat curled at your feet is optional.

The Vacant Stare


Also known as, I’m writing in my mind, where it counts.


I admit it. I am a slow writer. While others can whip out a blog entry in a few minutes, it takes me, well let’s just say, it takes me more than a few, as evident by the frequency of posts on this particular blog. But that’s how the writing “process” works for me and rather than beat myself up, I have learned to embrace it.


And a novel? Let’s just say the tortoise and I are figurative cousins. Although not as unhurried as Margaret Mitchell, (ten years to finish Gone with the Wind), it did take nine months to finish the first draft of my first novel, and my current work in process is coming along at about the same pace.


It’s slower going than some of my writer friends, partly because I am prone to daydreaming and partly because I write . . . she drops her voice into a hushed whisper . . .longhand. More on that later. Today’s post is about the value of daydreaming. Not to be confused with napping which has its own inherent value.


I get the bulk of my writing done in my head without ever putting pen to paper. My settings play out in my mind like the director’s cut of a movie, the one where panning vistas and zooming flora and fauna haven’t been edited. As a result of my mental tour, I can immerse myself in the world I create and write about it later as if I’ve been there.


My characters like to play in my head too. They debate each other, describe one another, and reveal their unique personalities through their often-noisy conversations in my head.


Daydreaming allows me to find both plot cracks and gaping holes, without diagramming and outlining ad nausea (although I’ve found drawing timelines to be time well spent). Consider the brain as video recorder. I can pause, rewind, revise, and replay.


Time wasted? Another form of procrastination? Absolutely not. The trick is to block out all non-writing machinations. When I find myself pondering if using a dust buster really counts as vacuuming, or if the pickles and ketchup on the hamburger count as a serving of vegetables, then it’s time to take a break.


The vacant stare may look like nothing special on the surface, yet after twenty or more minutes of glassy-eyed internal wandering, I do some of my most productive writing. Thanks to a little daydreaming, I know how to pick up where I left off. I know where I’m going. I know what to say.


Phot0 credit © Jose Antonio Sánchez Reyes