I Am a Longhand Reactionary

Ever since I purchased my first computer, an Apple IIe in 1984, I have mostly composed using a word processing program. I have taken a 180 degree turn and regressed to the pen and yellow legal pad form of composition.  I made the interesting discovery that the flow of a pen actually aids rather than hinders my flow of thought. I write more freely. The cursive handwriting connects me in some intangible way with the creative process.  The movement of my hand seems to permit prolixity and to prevent censorship of ideas at this stage of the writing. Freedom to entertain any thought is desirable in the first draft.  In later drafts the grammar police and style director can assume control.

Writing in longhand produced another side benefit. In transcribing my handwritten draft into my Word document, I revised and edited as I typed, resulting in a second draft.  The printed effect on the computer screen projects the illusion of a finished draft or print-ready copy–very deceptive impression when it in fact needs more careful reading and rewriting. A draft on a yellow pad gives no such illusion. Scratch-outs, arrows and sloppiness beg for cleaning up and smoothing of sentences and paragraphs. Oversights, defects in tone and voice, lackluster prose, clunky phrases and anachronisms stick out like the thistles and weeds they are. New or better ideas occur while typing the longhand into a Word document.

So I am a throwback to the Middle Ages. Maybe not exactly Heloise bent over her escritoire with quill and parchment, but the ball pen and yellow legal pad serve me as well as it did  for her writing love letters to Abelard. Keyboard pecking or moving a pen across paper is a matter of taste.  Styles sometimes do come back into fashion.  The advantages that I discovered writing a first draft in longhand did change my style of composition. This long-hand writing reactionary likes the benefits she sees in her current work in progress.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Carole Arthur on October 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Olivia, I love all your blogs and am enriched by your words! I had never heard of Heloise and Abelard (!)so of course had to look them up.


  2. Different brain waves, I guess. Writing by hand slows me down and frustrates me. The faster the ideas are coming, the worse it is. I love my keyboard.


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