Jun 30, 2010

Power of the Pen

Being forced offline for over a week, taught me something about my writing. I organise on the computer but create with pen and paper. I know many writers who prefer to just tap their stories out on the keyboard, it's faster and more efficient (and checks your spelling), but creating swirls and strokes with a pen scratching across paper unlocks something in my creativity. I get new ideas and a more intimate connection with my WIP.

Once I've written up my ideas, outlines or first drafts, I can then type them up and develop the narrative. My mind goes in a different direction with typing, I start to think of all the practicalities of my plot.

If I spark different parts of my brain by using handwriting over typing, doesn't it stand to reason a reader would react differently to receiving typed text to handwritten scrawl? If 'I 4got 2 tell u 2day zat I lv u' is not your idea of a romantic message, perhaps you'd rather a handwritten note on scented paper?

Kaz is from my little country town in Australia (although Kaz may reasonably argue it's just as much her little country town) and she's started a blog on handwritten letters. You'll find it here:

Why not pop a letter in the post for someone you care about? Or write to someone you've never met instead of emailing? It'll get the creative juices flowing! A while back my girls got letters from Granddad, they were so excited, they usually correspond via facebook, emails and blog comments.

A writing prompt I like is to write a letter from your main character to someone they miss.


  1. I like to type my WIP except when I struggle with the story or it's happening all too slow. Then I revert back to the trusty pen and paper. I can't keep back-tracking with pen and paper and that helps my forward momentum :)

  2. There's nothing as comforting as holding a pen. With email, fewer and fewer letters arrive in my mailbox. I miss them. I do love the anticipation of opening an envelope.

    Thanks for stirring fond memories.

  3. I agree with Lou. I love the anticipation of opening an envelope (that's not a bill). I don't write near as much as I use too and I think it's sad. I really need to do better. Thanks for the reminder.

    Thoughts in Progress

  4. I was recently on a train going from Rhode Island to New York and ended up writing three scenes for my newest story using a pen. It was a great experience. It had been so long since I wrote long-hand that I had forgotten how nice it could be. I think with all of my longer stories I reach a point when I decide to write things out with pen and paper. It's never pre-planned; I think my brain just decides when the time will come.

  5. I do almost ALL my writing long-hand. I have been writing a long time, and I only got to using a computer regularly in my late 20s (the early 90s), and THAT was WORK. I am functionally a statistician. So it may not surprise you that what I type directly sounds rather clinical compared to my longhand stuff. I am MUCH better at CHARACTER longhand--so i hear you!

    I don't do hand written letters often enough, but for YEARS I was the BEST PEN PAL of about 30 different people. I love letters.

  6. Great idea for a writing prompt. I find I've come to prefer the computer and discovered this last week how dependant I've become on having access to the internet while writing.

  7. I love to hand-write things. I don't do it often enough but I love to. Great post.


  8. I used to have a few friends around the globe who I corresponded with the old-fashioned way. That has died down to only a few letters a year, but I agree, there is nothing quite like both writing and receiving a hand-written letter. For me, the obstacle now is simply time and a quiet space. I need both in abundance to write like that, so it is more or less limited to vacations.

    As far as creative writing goes, most of that is on the laptop. But I do most of my outlining and rough notes with pen & paper - more flexible, I can mind-map and doodle as I go. Also I need to have my sense of space carefully mapped out, also pen & paper. And if I find myself with some peace & quiet somewhere I often write out scenes longhand and type them up later.

  9. Thanks for all the comments! Sounds like I'm not alone in feeling a certain artistic spark when I put pen to paper. I think one of the biggest problems for me writing on the computer is the easy access to the internet, it's just too tempting to read blogs and sites about writing rather than just writing.
    I'm off on holidays next week to visit family, so hopefully I'll get some work on my WIP done and knock over a few hand-written letters as well!