In honor of today's topic, I'm writing the first draft of this post longhand.
Do you draft in longhand or on a computer? The answer isn’t as obvious as it may sound, nor is there a right or wrong answer. I do both. In my creative process, different projects call for different methods. Different writers have different processes. I continue to be surprised, though, by how many writers have never considered writing a draft in longhand.
Yes, it’s time-consuming. That’s part of what I like about it. Maybe it’s a form of rebellion against the speed of life that came along with the computer age. Regardless of my deep-seated psychological motives, though, there’s something earthy and connected about picking up a pen or pencil and putting words to actual paper…the old-fashioned way.
Let me share a bit about why I draft in longhand versus computer. You can draw your own conclusions from there.
For me, the computer means two things…typing speed and editing flexibility. When it needs to be done quickly or when it needs to be edited on the fly, the computer is my course of action. I type:
When I have the words in mind verbatim. If the project is short and simple, and the words have already gelled in my head, then I type.
When I have to do it fast. If it’s a quick-turnaround project in which speed matters more than eloquence (rare, but it happens), then I type.
When I know where I’m going but not how to get there. If I can’t seem to stick to my outline--or don’t have an outline--then I type (and copy and paste, and copy…).
Longhand works best for me when I’m working on something that requires thought, meditation or purposefulness. Examples in my own work include devotionals or works of fiction. I draft in longhand:
When I want to unplug. Computers are wonderful for ease of use, but they also hold multiple distractions. If I refuse to be distracted, then I write longhand.
When I want to be portable. This may sound ridiculous in an age of laptops and iPhone apps. I don’t have an iPhone, though, and I find it impractical to tote a laptop on every errand I run. So, if I want to be flexible in my workspace, then I write longhand.
When I want to brainstorm. Darnit, sometimes sticky notes and mind maps are just the best outlining tools. When I need to think outside the box, then I do it longhand.
When I want to engage my senses. I find longhand an earthier, more tactile experience than I do typing. I don’t know why; it’s not, really. We’ll just call it a personal preference, not true for everyone. I do know it allows me to connect to both physical sensations and emotions. The scratching of a writing implement is also quieter than the clack-clack of computer keys. If I want to listen to the whispers of the world around me, then I do it while writing longhand.
When I want to engage each word. I type more quickly than I write, so writing with a pen or pencil obviously slows me down. If I want to notice each turn my thoughts take and each individual word I write, then I write it longhand.
I end with the same caveat as at the beginning…people are different, and different things work for different people. Drafting anything in longhand might turn out to be a disaster for you. However, if you’ve never written a piece in longhand, I encourage you to try it. Sit under a tree or beside a crackling fire, take pen in hand and simply write. You never know what vistas you’ll discover when you’re not gazing at a computer screen.