Like many authors, I keep a pad and pen beside my bed. I do this not because I wake up with brilliant story ideas, but because I read before I go to sleep. When I come across an interesting quote, a new word, or just a word I like but lost sight of (pertinacious), I write it down. I hope this is a way to telegraph to my soon-to-be-sleeping brain: Words are fun! Clever words are big fun! Make lots of clever, fun words!
Last night’s words, courtesy of the late mystery genius, Dame Ngaio Marsh, DBE, were fossick (to dig and root and poke around for treasure) and gleek (to tease, jest, have on). Are those great words or what? (But not, alas, around in the Regency). Some nights, though, the act of writing legibly nearly defeats me. I’m old enough that I write mostly cursive and… chicken scratching is more pleasing to the eye than some of my attempts at penmanship.
So I did some research on whether typing or handwriting serves my creativity and productivity best, and the answer so far is, “Yes.” For big picture ideas, for taking notes that I can recall and learning new ideas that I can synthesize with what’s already in memory–get out the pen or pencil. For conveying information to another party, fire up the keyboard.
There’s even data (shout out to artist Austin Kleon for the link) that says we write better the faster we type, though it’s limited data and measures the essay writing skills of people who cannot type at all against peers who’ve had eight weeks of typing lessons. The explanation for the improved compositions from those who learned to type is that we think far faster than we can hand-write. Once we can type at 24 words per minute, our composing speed keeps up with our brain, and we don’t edit our communication “down” to the speed of the pen.
But again, that’s for writing that conveys information to others. I know when I’m doing a fiction-writing prompt, I get much better material from pen work. I need to mentally fossick around in that half-second gap between the thought and its expression to find the exquisite phrasing or lurking symbolism that isn’t perceptible at keyboard speed. I also know that the more I write by hand, the better my penmanship looks. Then too, I enjoy the physical act of putting words on a page rather than on a screen.
Do you write by hand? Journal by hand? Send hand-written letters? How does the written, as opposed to the typed, word figure into your day–if at all?