Do you write by hand or on a computer?
J. K. Rowling: “I still like writing by hand. Normally I do a first draft using pen and paper, and then do my first edit when I type it onto my computer. For some reason, I much prefer writing with a black pen than a blue one.”
By Barnard Law Collier
Write your serious work by hand. Escape the keyboard. Keyboards have no spirit and no soul. Your handwriting has both. Penmanship is the sport of the mind. Benjamin Franklin, the first great American journalist autobiographer, wrote about how he copied the handwriting of people whose traits and character he admired and thus he absorbed his heroes’ best qualities.
Select with care your writing instrument. No two pens or pencils are exactly similar. Choose by your sense of touch. Does it fit gently where you grasp it? Does the material of the body feel right?
Use a paper that best suits your personality. Yellow, lined, paper is a favorite of the lawyerly writers. Unlined paper is best for those who enjoy the freedom to choose their own lines.
Your posture ought to be comfortable and disciplined. The chair you choose—unless you stand up—should allow your back and legs to stay still while you are in the writer’s trance (which some call “the zone”). Develop a steady, slow, deep breathing pattern to keep your brain supplied with oxygen. Thinking and writing is honest-to-god work.
Take chances with your script. You needn’t confine your handwriting into a static font. “Messiness” does not necessarily mean confusion. It may signal creativity and independence of thought. Play with your penmanship and what you write may radiate energy.
Inflection is critical to narrative. While handwriting contains myriad inflections, the keyboard does not.
Transcribe your manuscript via keyboard to a digital file. You then may experience the ghostly impression that intelligence beyond yours actually composed the piece. This offers you the opportunity to edit your own text as if it were a stranger’s work. You get a cool degree of distance.
Archive your manuscripts. If you become a masterful writer, they may be of value.
Barney Collier describes himself as cultural anthropologist, writer, former New York Times correspondent and bureau chief, and publisher.