For as long as I know, I’ve enjoyed typing fast and getting the writing taks out of my way. It’s fast and efficient. But typing on a computer also means I have to constantly wrestle with distractions, a major major limitation for any creative and naturally inquisitive person. Back in the school days, things were pretty different. Simple, I must say. Writing longhand was the only option. Heck, even in 2020 my university requires it’s students to turn in semester assignments and term exams in longhand! It’s brutal and I guess you can imagine how sore my hands are after the exam week is over.
That said, there’s one thing that I’ve always enjoyed when writing lonhand — exams or otherwise — laser-like focus. It’s unshakable! Sure, you can experience all of that when working with a keyboard too… but we know that it’s a compromise as distractions or interruptions are just a click away. And that’s a major bummer when it comes to productivity.
So, a couple of weeks back, I decided to carry out an experiment — write my daily posts longhand and then type it up in Scrivener before posting it online. And, bam! Right away, I noticed something different, which I’ll get into in a bit. But before that, I think you already know this, but its bears repeating — all my posts are basically written in a stream-of-consciousness style. It’s just how I like it. And here’s the kicker — I don’t even bother to re-read, edit, or proofread for typos. I write it and post it. That’s it! If you’ve bumped into typos, grammatical errors, and language faux-pas, now you know the reason.
Call it reckless, irresponsible, or whatever, but it’s what works for me. My priority is to make art and not worry about what critics have to say. Back to the idea of writing longhand, I know, it’s old-school but the benefits I’ve observed far outweigh the limitations. Let me cite a few:
- Writing longhand first does a better job at clarifying my thinking than typing. And it’s a great way to naturally incorporate editing (albeit, light) into the process. You can’t help but do that when you’re copying from the pages onto a word processor.
- I also feel the carryover to all of your writing at large (on paper) is immense. Its great side-effect is that I’m able to pause, reflect, and articulate what’s on my mind so much better than before. Think about it — there’s something I want to communicate (in a professional context) and I simply type it up, give it a read, and just send it! No editing required. Well, almost. (I’m not sure if this is a “typical” result though.)
- Some of the most famous writers have produced groundbreaking work by first writing in longhand. It’s a natural way to write for most of us as that’s how we developed motor-skills as kids (remember?). It’s incredible to think how less of this skill, something we’ve been trained all our lives to do, do we use these days. As with all things, technology ruined it for us! (I guess one of the defining characteristics of technology is to replace our normal/slower skills with faster, efficient ones. But how would we replace something as basic as picking up a pen and expressing ourselves?)
- Writing longhand does a fantastic job at helping you zone out and focus on penning down your thoughts. It’s a magical feeling, one that you cannot replicate using a keyboard and monitor. Perhaps, a typewriter? I wouldn’t know since I haven’t used it, ever. My guess is, it can’t.
- You can write anywhere. No batteries or charging cables needed. Just the good ole pen and paper and you’re set. Functional minimalism at it’s best.
I can’t think of a “con” right now to be honest except that writing longhand slows me down a bit. But since I’m writing for myself and there’s no other person waiting for a response at the other end (as in emails or project-related deadlines) I think I’m okay. We obsess a little too much about speed anyway.
The reasons above are good enough for me to carry on with this experiment for a while. I might change things up as usual but then, I might not. Right now, I’m enjoying this practice. It feels less of a hack and more of a practice, one that grows on you. It’s deeply gratifying.
Try it and let me know how it feels. I’ll report back in a month.