For the Love of Longhand

Photo by Simon Howden
I remember when I was in my final semester before college graduation. In order to receive a degree, all political science majors had to write a 30-page thesis on a political aspect of their choosing. One day, before the start of the professor's lectures, my friend Renee turned around in her seat.

"What are you doing?" She asked, watching me scribble furiously in a spiral-bound notebook.

"Working on my paper," I responded, barely looking up from handwriting that only I could decipher. Renee's friendly expression morphed into a puzzled frown.

"You're working on your thesis now?"

"Yes." I thought she was going to launch into a tirade about me being a nerd or goody-goody for getting an early start, but Renee made a more surprising comment.

"I can't believe you're writing it in longhand! It has to be typed."

"I'm going to type it at home on my computer. Writing it out helps me to think."

"Brandi, you're just making more work for yourself." Renee rolled her eyes in disgust at my primitive methods and turned back around.

I still giggle when I think about that day in class because I haven't changed. There are several notebooks, journals, and yellow legal pads scattered around my laptop that I will compose scenes in before my stories ever come to life in Microsoft Word. I like the sensation of moving pen across paper, crossing out phrases I don't want to use, and manually flipping pages back to jot revisions in the margins. As a matter of fact, parts of this post you're reading now were composed on a cute little blue notebook purchased from the dollar store.

This isn't to say I don't use my laptop. I write with it nearly every day, in fact, but longhand gives me a starting point. It's unhurried and completely forgiving. The paper simply awaits the touch of your pen or pencil. That blinking cursor, on the other hand, can be likened to a tough eighth-grade English teacher repeatedly tapping her heel to the floor. Well? The cursor seems to mimic her disciplinarian, staccato beat. Aren't. You. Going. To. Write. Something. I'm. Waiting.

Even if I write one paragraph in longhand and type it on the computer, it gives me something to appease that demanding cursor. I feel accomplished. Ah, well, that's my way to start the creative process, slightly antiquated it may be. Happy scribbles!

How do you write before composing the final draft? Laptop, longhand, or both?