Writing by Hand

Writing by Hand
Photo by Brent Gorwin / Unsplash

The advantages of an outdated form of working.

From: The Digital Oase Newsletter

Writing on a computer is better than on paper. I knew this simple fact since I borrowed my dad’s work laptop at the age of 12, an old IBM ThinkPad, to write a screenplay that I hoped would make me famous. It was so much better than the writing by hand I had to do for school. I could correct my grammar and spelling without crossing out words, reorganise my sentences, and rewrite parts I didn’t like. These things were just not possible on paper.

Since then, nothing has changed. I still know that a computer holds only advantages over a piece of paper. In fact, after I started taking my laptop to lectures at university, I never wrote anything down by hand anymore. That was until two weeks ago when I started writing on paper again and (to my great surprise) truly enjoyed it.

How it happened

After moving to a new apartment, I tried to establish some new positive habits, and one of them was not to use any screens in bed. Because I always like to write down ideas and thoughts, I bought a legal pad and placed it alongside a pen on my bedside table. But I didn’t stop at taking notes, and after a few days, I had developed a new habit; I wrote every night before picking up a book and getting ready to sleep. Articles for my blog, the Digital Oase Newsletter, and a draft for a guide I am working on. I even tried out some fictional wring, which is something I have never done before. To my great surprise, I wasn’t missing any of the fantastic features a computer offers, and I even was glad to have a piece of paper instead of my MacBook.

What I like

Writing on paper means writing away from any scenes, which leads to the lack of any distractions. When wiring on my computer, I am constantly tempted to do something other than working on the complex sentence I am stuck on. I open my browser to check reddit or play a round of chess to “clear my mind”. I often end up staying away from my document for over an hour. I also tend to switch between multiple projects, never focussing on one for a long time. My weakness is that I am getting annoyed when I am stuck - so I got used to switching to a different document to avoid the daunting task of working through a tricky part. But now, it is just me and the one article on paper in front of me. Instead of instantly switching to something different, I have to sit on my bed in silence and think about the sentence until I figure out how I want to continue. Surprisingly, this never takes more than a few minutes. Just a few minutes of concentration fix the hours of procrastinating, and a distraction-free environment leaves me no other choice than to do exactly that.

I grew to love the physical act of writing (even though my hands really hurt initially). I like to actively work with my text, crossing out words and sentences because I feel more connected with the text on the paper and even the environment around me. When sitting on my computer, my mind is trapped inside the digital world, and I forget my surroundings. When thinking on paper, I observe my surroundings while figuring out where to go with my story. I bought a big Moleskine notebook, and I cannot wait to take it outside for writing in different places. I can write articles (like exploring London) while sitting at the city’s iconic places or a pub, really experiencing and capturing the moment.

Where I’ll go from here

Paper will not replace my laptop, and digital writing will definitely stay my preferred method for 90% of the work I have to do. Spell and grammar-checking, the ability to work on my sentences over and over again, and my writing speed are just some of the advantages I never want to miss, and I have to digitalise my writing anyways to be able to publish it on the internet. But, from now on, analogue writing will also be a part of my work. I grew to not only like, but prefer to write on paper in some situations. It is not about replacing my digital tools but improving my overall workflow. In the future, I might work like this:

  1. Write the initial draft on paper
  2. Read over it and improve it on paper
  3. Type the text into my computer
  4. Correct spelling and grammar
  5. Digitally edit the text multiple times
  6. Final spell and grammar check

I am looking forward to testing this method with a few of my articles. Maybe you can try writing on paper as well - be sure to let me know how it works for you.