How Writing By Hand Could Change Your Creative Process

05 November 2020 on Blog, Storystorm  

I write all my first drafts by hand. Pencil--a sassy little Muji mechanical sweetheart that only takes soft 0.5 lead. And paper--notebooks of all shapes and sizes, lined, unlined, free to roam, hard cover, soft cover, just paper. By drafts, I mean a comfortable 3,000 handwritten words.

Artists and academics, when they learn this, think I’m nuts. “Why do you do that to yourself?”

I’m like Jo March from Little Women with markings all over my left hand. My wrists cramp, my fingers extend and bend to get the blood flowing. Unlike Jo, I write way less than she does and never attempt switching hands.

There’s something special that happens when I write by hand that I can never recreate when drafting on a laptop. The words have to be a physical manifestation, and for me, technology gets in the way. Drafting on word processors always felt so official to me, so high stakes. Nothing seemed to come out right when my fingers would clack and bang against the keys. The blinking cursor would pulse like a living being, waiting for me to come up with something, and even when I would finally choke and write something, it never felt quite “on.”

I learned over the summer, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, this handwriting of drafts is not entirely uncommon and is rather encouraged. In, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages those who wish to reconnect with their artistic selves to write morning pages. 

“Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness,” Julia writes.

The goal of the morning pages is not to create art, or even “real” writing, but rather to have a low-stakes space to drain the brain of thoughts, so your brain is clear and open to creative thoughts throughout the day. This low-stakes space is paper. After six months of practicing morning pages, even though I was used to writing by hand, I felt a sense of power. I processed emotions that needed processing, and I made room in my brain for more artistic pieces of writing.

When it comes to craft, I’m all about experimentation. Writing on different surfaces, in different places, music, no music, trying to just see if anything changes. If you’re unsure of how to unleash your creative self, try something new. Try morning pages. Try the entire The Artist’s Way program. Try writing by hand. For me, I love the sound of graphite on parchment, and I love the way it clarifies what I’m trying to say on the page.

Lindsey Wente is the nonfiction editor of Barnstorm. She is a second year MFA student at the University of New Hampshire.

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