Writing Longhand: Why It Deserves Your Attention Again [Part I]


At ten years old, I owned a library of “novels” I’d penned in marbled composition books. The handwriting looped and too large for the lines, crowded out by doodles in the margins.

And then I discovered the typewriter.

Nestled among mismatched glassware and costume jewelry on a yard sale table, I lugged it home [along with a few ballroom dresses for dress-up], unpacked it from its case, and positioned it squarely in the middle of my desk. Its hum made me feel like a journalist from black and white movies, and each letter that punched the page got me a little closer to author status.

It didn’t matter much that a boxy Macintosh sat downstairs in the family room.This machine completed my writing space.

And then the laptop caught my eye in college.

I’d long forgotten the rattling typewriter in favor of the family computer, but this, this machine, could once again could be dragged away to an empty room, where I could sit cross-legged and quiet with my stories.

But lately I’ve returned to my roots.

I’ve fallen back in love with the written word written longhand. Scribbled on paper, scribbled in pen.

Here are the reasons why:


ONE: Pen and paper are always on hand.

In this world of disappearing coffee shop power outlets, it’s best to keep a notebook near. Whenever I leave the counter with coffee mug in hand, either all tables in close proximity to outlets are occupied or there’s not an outlet in sight. Or I spot a handsome fellow on the other side of the room and forfeit my table and outlet for a spot closer to him.

My laptop is never fully charged.

Writing longhand allows you to write in the car, on the beach, in the briefest moments between daily demands. Notebooks are deliberately portable.


TWO: Pen and paper come with less distractions.

Daydreams alone distract me enough. The Internet, in all its fatal forms – Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Goodreads, etc. – proves itself a wanton charmer again and again. And folks wonder why I refuse to join Pininterest.

Disconnection allows you to focus more on your words and less on your social media prowess. There will be time to publish and connect with readers later. The words must come first.

Also, paper doesn’t come equipped with a distracting delete key. This breathing space means the editing process happens once the words are written. Deleted sentences can’t be reconsidered, and sometimes there’s a glimpse of genius in those terrible ideas.

Terrible ideas can be reworked, dismantled and assembled over and over until you’ve got something that works.

Whether from Pressfield or King, we’ve all heard that revision should begin once the words are out on paper and not a second before.

Use the transcription process – typing out your scribbled words – as the launching pad for revision.


THREE: Writing longhand utilizes different sections of the brain.

Especially potent against writer’s block, putting pen to paper can deepen your writing. The process exercises a different part of the brain, creating new neural connections. Connections that will generate greater creativity.

I don’t know about you, but I could use that creativity.

It might feel unnatural and stilted at first, but give it time.

The art of writing longhand will surprise you.


Do you write longhand? Do you suffer from keyboard addiction?