On my low-tech life, part 2


A few people who read my post on how I carry a pocket watch sent me gentle notes letting me know that my laptop almost certainly showed the time if I would just look there in the lower right hand corner, and I could use that. And while I do appreciate the kindness with which these notes were meant, with all due respect, do you really think a woman who carries a pocket watch uses a computer to write her books?

No no no. She writes in longhand, using a blue roller ball pen in cardboard-covered composition books. (See photo.)

“But wouldn’t it be faster to write using your laptop?” I can hear you cry.

As a writer who has published something approaching fifty books in the last fifteen years or so, I do not think we need to worry about my productivity. But the fact is, writing in longhand is more productive (for me, anyway) because I don’t get distracted by checking emails or reading blog posts or playing mahjong. I’ve got the pen, I’ve got the paper, there is only one thing to do, and that is to write the book.

After the first draft is finished, I type it into the laptop but this is not some pointless waste of time. It is part of the editing process. I get to a boring part and think, “Geez, I don’t want to type this in,” and voila! I don’t, because it’s boring. So the act of data entry becomes an opportunity for revision.

Then I print out the hard copy (okay, so I am a little tough on trees) and edit using a purple ballpoint pen. Then I type in the revisions, accepting and discarding my ideas as I go, because this is yet another opportunity, this time to review my edits and make sure they do what they’re supposed to do.

Now, before you go, “Sure, I’ll write my books in longhand in composition books . . . when I’m ninety, like you!” let me point out that I am not ninety yet. And also, let me point out any number of studies that show the connection between handwriting and building your brain. For example, one study shows, “The practice . . . can improve idea composition and expression,” among other things like “handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.”

Here’s another study and another.

I have found that using a laptop (or desk computer) all the time contributes to an inability to focus intensely for long periods of time, and focus is a requirement for getting things done.

1 comment

  1. This is funny because I used your method of writing for years. After having been a freelance non-fiction writer who wrote directly on the computer, I now do that for fiction. I’ve retrained my brain. I still write love scenes longhand, however, because soft music and a glass of wine create the right mood. There’s nothing wrong with being old-fashioned. Whatever works.

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