When we were in college, we took some creative writing classes. One of our professors told us that, back in the day, aspiring writers would often hand-write an exact copy of one of their favorite novels. It was viewed as a sort of right-of-passage.
We each actually did this a while ago (Mao II for Wyatt, Winesburg, Ohio for Walt), and it was sort of an interesting experience. There is something much more intimate about writing stuff out by hand (versus typing), and it certainly gave us a new appreciation for the stories we hand-wrote.
Because we were born in the ’90s, computers have pretty much always been around. Apart from taking notes in class, pretty much every thing we wrote was done on a computer. There are a few consequences to this: 1) our handwriting sucks (we are both insanely jealous of people with beautiful handwriting), and 2) whenever we need to write anything, we immediately turn to our laptops.
To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with writing on a computer. We still (usually) compose all of our first drafts in Microsoft Word. Writing on a computer is great because you’re able to write (or type) essentially as fast as you can think. This is really helpful for first drafts, as it allows you to get your thoughts down without being too concerned about any of the countless worries that cross a writer’s mind when he or she is writing.
Also, typing on a computer allows us to edit our first draft really quickly. For us, we usually print our first draft out and edit it with a pen. We used to just repeat this process until we “finished” (compose a draft on the computer, print it out, edit, make the changes, print it out, edit it…etc). However, after we hand-wrote our favorite novels, we started handwriting our second drafts. At least in our experience, handwriting completely changes the way we write.
First, handwriting is simply slower. Not only is the actual process of stringing words together slower than typing, handwriting sort of forces you to think more carefully about any given word.
Second, there’s something incredibly fulfilling about watching a stack of handwritten pages gradually grow. This might just be a personal quirk, but it’s much more satisfying than looking at a stack of typed pages.
Third, beyond simply forcing you to think about every word, handwriting forces you to think much more intimately about the flow and pacing of chapters, the way your chapters are organized, even the way certain words look on a page.
Fourth, our hands and fingers are a lot stronger.
Sure, it takes a while, but in terms of editing, it’s often useful to find any method to slow down and really focus on the writing. It’s certainly helped us develop as writers.
Other writers, what’s your editing process like? Do you ever find yourselves handwriting anything? Do you hand-write everything? Normal people, do you ever hand-write anything? Outside of writing fiction, we can’t remember the last time we hand-wrote anything. Let us know in the comments! As always, thanks for reading,
W & W Sawday