I’ve always been a digital girl. I grew up with computers and smartphones. By the time I was old enough to start writing more than my name, computers were the norm – to the point where I once got in trouble for writing by hand at school.
It’s not that I don’t love a good notebook. On the contrary – give me an afternoon in Paperchase and I’m as happy as Larry (happier, in fact. Larry suffers from severe depression.) It’s that writing by hand has always seemed inconvenient. Not only can I type quicker than I could ever write (and, more importantly, type as quickly as my brain thinks), but carrying notebooks and pens everywhere is just irritating. For a start, I never remember to switch my notebooks from one bag to another, whereas I barely leave a room without my phone in my hand.
About a month ago, however, all that changed.
I was feeling frustrated with my writing. I felt like I’d stopped progressing. Like I was just writing the same things over and over again. A combination of turning to the same sources of inspiration and succumbing to the pressure of trying to ‘grow my audience’ had left bored. Bored and stagnant.
Worse still, I was writing what I thought I should write, rather than what I wanted to write, and I’d lost sight of why I write in the first place (spoiler alert: I write because it’s fun. Because I like the physical process of stringing words together. That’s in. No grand plan or higher purpose).
It was clear that I needed to change something. That I needed to challenge myself and try something new. Above all, it was clear that in order to break through my slump I just needed to write more.
After debating daily blogging (too much pressure) and morning pages (too little sleep – I already get up at 5:30am to fit in my freelance work between my actual 9-5), I settled on using my daily commute to write.
One problem: my laptop is too bulky to carry to and from work everyday; and writing more than a list of post ideas on my phone is painful.
I had no choice, therefore, but to start writing things by hand. In a notebook. Shock, horror, gasp.
At first, it was difficult. My messy handwriting irritated me. The lack of organisation stressed me out. My terrible spelling filled me with fear that I wasn’t a proper writer.
But once I started – I mean properly started – I couldn’t stop.
I’ve written more in the last month that I’ve written in the previous six. I have written blog posts and newsletters and pitches for publications like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve turned fleeting semantics into powerful essays and challenged myself to tackle topics I’ve previously shied away from.
I’ll be honest, writing by hand has changed my life. Or at least, it’s changed my writing which sometimes feels like the same thing.
For a start, a blank notepage is far more exciting than an empty Word document. Instead of seeing a blank page as an impossible stumbling block, I now see it as a challenge. Notebooks are finite. There’s only so much space you can fill before you are finished. So now instead of thinking ‘how can I start this’ I think ‘how can I finish this’. This simple change in mindset has spurred me on to write and write and write some more.
Writing by hand has also quelled the perfectionist inside of me. When I type out my thoughts, it’s far too easy to delete them immediately. When I write by hand, there’s no easy way to edit. What goes on the paper, stays on the paper – and there’s nothing I can do about it. My thoughts spill onto the page, immortalised by my pen forever.
It’s made my writing more honest; more authentic. It forces me to lay my thoughts out, as clear as day – and even if those thoughts don’t make the final edit, at least they’re no longer taking up space in my brain. I’m lighter now, and the lightness feels amazing.
On a more practical level, it’s made me more precise. Having to type up pieces before I publish them forces me to notice typos or instances where my words don’t flow properly. It forces me to re-read my words before throwing them into the void, which is never a bad thing.
I’ll never ditch my digital ways entirely. For one thing, publishing has moved online so if I ever want the world to read my words, I’ll have to digitise them. For another, constantly buying new notebooks is expensive and bad for the environment.
But writing by hand has certainly improved my writing, and that’s got to be a good thing.
Note from the Editor: I clearly wrote this post before my 2-month long break from blogging (and writing altogether). The sentiment still stands, however. When I am writing, I am mostly writing by hand now and it’s amazing.