Why I draft my articles by hand
In January 2018 I began an experiment: my first writing of the day would be in a physical notebook, not typing on screens.
I had done this before, both free-writing in my personal journal and outlining a book idea but I never typed up any of that writing. This 2018 experiment is different; most of what I write quickly becomes articles posted online.
This process of writing by hand then typing those words into a digital document takes some extra time, but I have found that it’s worth it. Here’s why:
The inability to backspace keeps my thoughts moving forward.
Some time ago Sean McCabe emphasized the importance of simply writing without simultaneous editing by making the suggestion to rip out the backspace key while writing first drafts. Nope.press was born. Using the backspace key is impossible in nope.press. It’s equal parts fun and frustrating, and it helps to get my thoughts moving forward.
Writing with a pen on paper accomplishes the same objective. It removes the ability to backspace or delete so my thoughts keep moving forward. I let myself cross things out because I have found that doing so is quite different from deleting: The fact that I’m adding ink to the page maintains the forward momentum and since I can still read the words that I have drawn lines through I can easily bring them back if I want to.
It’s easier to focus with a notebook than a screen.
Even when I set up a full-screen blank document the night before, using my computer first thing in the morning brings with it the temptation to check email, social media, etc. etc. It is too easy to click over to the internet in the name of seeking out inspiration.
It is entirely possible for me to focus on writing while typing on a screen. I do it all the time, particularly while editing. But it’s so much easier to focus when all I have in front of me is a physical page so I take advantage of that when I can.
I have talked about the benefits of writing first thing in the morning, but one of the struggles I face when I do so is feeling tired and lazy. Consuming is so much easier than creating, especially when I’m tired. Picking up pen and paper give me no other option. I cannot consume and so I create.
I’m old-fashioned and a bit sentimental.
There is something about the tactile sensation of pen on paper that draws me in. For generations hand-written communication has been key to civilization. I love feeling a part of history.
A person’s handwriting is so personal. Reading handwritten words is like hearing the voice of the writer. I love flipping through my old notebooks and I look forward to the day when my daughter can explore them. She will be able to see my imperfect process and get to know me in ways she could not if she only read the words I put online.