When you sit down to write, do you reach for a pen? Or a keyboard?
It’s not just an idle question. There’s a completely different flow to the act of writing when you’re writing long-hand on a pad of paper as opposed to tapping away at a keyboard.
First, there’s the portability issue. Even with laptops springing up at every coffee shop around the world, having dedicated power jacks on airplanes, and being smaller and lighter than ever, they will still never be as portable as paper and a pen. With paper, you don’t need to worry about the battery running down, or software glitches–or that dropping it will render your precious work irretrievable (unless you drop it in a puddle). You can fold paper into your pocket with a golf-sized pencil and be ready for anything. You can jot down notes and impressions in a journal in your briefcase while you’re on the train. You can meditate with a pad of paper on the beach without worrying about sand or water damage. For sheer ease of use, paper is hard to top.
Laptops and typewriters, on the other hand, keep you in one place, in a seated, upright position, often at a desk or table. They rely on mechanics, and therefore put a “machine” between you and your writing, which bothers some people. On the other hand, the output is immediately legible, which cannot be said of everybody’s handwriting (cough). Additionally, if you’re using a word processor to write, it makes editing a snap. Instant find/replace for name changes. The spell-check function (which should be used warily but is still handy). Easy insertion of new paragraphs, or moving entire sections.
Of course, in this modern age, even a handwritten manuscript is going to need to be typed before it can be submitted to a publisher or posted to a blog, so keyboards are going to come into the equation at some point.
Me, personally? My handwriting is so abysmal at this point, writing anything longer than a few sentences in a note card is a chore–for me and for the reader. The thought of writing an entire book by hand? My hand cramps at the thought. How J.K. Rowling managed to write 1,088,072 words of her seven-book Harry Potter series out by hand just boggles my mind. If that had been me, you wouldn’t have been able to decipher anything past page six–if you made it that far. Therefore, I’m used to thinking in front of a keyboard, where I can simply type without having to worry that I just skipped half the letters in “writing” because I can’t seem to write “i-n-g” any more.
This is the first entry in a series of posts about handwriting. The next entry? It will be about the personal touch.