Friday, August 6, 2010

Writing by Hand

Yesterday, my spouse left for work early, and I had about an hour and a half before I had to go to work. I had Kelli's recent post on the brain, where she says that if she finds herself with time and an empty house, she will not do housework, but instead, she will write. I burned to write. The night before, I had made more notes about short stories that I want to write in my linked short story cycle.

There was just one problem. My spouse took the laptop with him, and our crippled desktop has been with the IT guy.

I decided to try an experiment. I pulled out a legal pad and wrote the way I used to do, with my hand clutching a pen.

At first, it felt strange. I kept thinking about how much faster I could be writing if I had a computer.

And then, the magic happened (it also happens at the keyboard, but it doesn't always happen any place): I lost myself in what I was writing. My brain danced; my fingers flew.

When I had to go to work, I felt like I had been in a trance. At one point, I thought, I shouldn't be driving. Some word-drunk part of my brain was still back in my living room with my short story.

I haven't written a short story since 2003. I've written plenty of other things, but not short fiction. I haven't written any new fiction since 2005. I've never forgotten how wonderful it feels to create a new world, but for a variety of reasons, I've been working on other projects. And I still get a similar high each time I write a poem that takes me in unexpected directions.

I haven't written by hand since 1987. I take notes by hand, and I keep a journal by writing by hand (although lately, most of my journaling has been blogging). I had forgotten what that feels like. For about an hour after I was done, my right hand and wrist ached.

I don't have a tiny enough laptop that I can use in any setting. I've wondered about whether or not I'd do more writing if I moved away from thinking that I need a computer to do it. Would I write in front of the television, the way I did as a teenager? Would I write in waiting rooms? Could I write during boring meetings?

I had a friend in grad school who worked on his fiction during boring classes. He filled long legal pads. I always worried about what I'd miss if I did that, while at the same time, I envied him his ability to tune out.

Now that I have several new short stories that I want to write, maybe I'll start carrying a legal pad around with me.


Sherry O'Keefe said...

you bring up a good point that we might write during other chunks of time if we used paper instead of the laptop. as i write this i am reviewing my days, seeing the periods of time when i could have been writing if only i had a tablet and pen...(!)

Kristin said...

It's an interesting experiment--I plan to keep trying it out.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Loved this post. I, too, have drifted from much pen and paper work, although most of my poems begin in long hand & my journal.

Also, I envied the same type of writers in my program who could work on stories or poems during other classes and meetings. I, too, was afraid I'd miss something. Are you, by chance, a youngest child? (That's what I blame it on!)

Kristin said...

I am the oldest child, the super-responsible one in every situation. It's hard for me to write poems or stories or even proofread in meetings. I don't want to appear disrespectful, even if that portion of the meeting is covering something of no relevance to me or my department. Sigh.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, I'm the youngest and always afraid I'll miss some crucial tidbit. Sounds like we've both got it all covered!