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


On Monday I listed a few reasons on how returning to longhand could improve your art.

I promise you, it’s a long way from elementary cursive and college blue books.

If you’re still a die-hard typist, loosen that ball and chain a little, and let me sway your way of [stubborn] thinking:


ONE: It helps to get physical.

Back in the days of Shakespeare, writers sharpened feather quills, etched deep into parchment, and dipped into pots of ink. Rough materials meant a hands-on approach, and much like a sculptor pulling the human form from a slab of marble, writers chiseled away the blank space until a story surfaced.

Writing felt physical. Writing felt like a traditional craft.

Carpel tunnel doesn’t count. Your hand needs to ache, the indent on your middle finger needs to burn. Something happens the moment the mental collides with the physical.

It’s in this space that we discover genius.


TWO: You might just do your best work.

For the most part, the digital document is linear. Words play out in the traditional path, and thoughts get caught up in the current.

But on paper, thoughts can spring from arrows to the left, to the right, overhead and lead to charts or drawings or circles and stars.

This system forces you to chase those ideas down, to push them to the limit, or at least the edge of the page.

It’s kinetic, and it’s electric, this play of creative thought. And it’s catching.


THREE: There’s no room for business in art.

While that statement may ring untrue, the beginning stages belong to art and art alone. Thinking of stats and invoices and checks will only dissolve the possibility that lies in the blank first page.

With my laptop I research, read, publish, email, and waste a lot of time. None of that belongs in the first draft, so keep it all at arm’s length.


FOUR: The proof is in the hand.

A couple of months ago I leaned over a case in a little Dublin museum, close enough for my breath to fog up the glass. Beneath the glass sat pages and pages of yellowed manuscript, all in James Joyce’s pen.

I elbowed out a fellow to my right. Nothing mattered but the handwriting of one of the world’s greatest writers just inches from my fingertips. Nothing mattered but the longhand of the man whose Dubliners first enthralled me with the short story form.

Even the sleekest fonts have nothing on the combination of paper and pen.

Handwriting reveals emotion. It uncovers vulnerabilities. It admits the author’s greatest dreams and fears.

Longhand, much like the human eye, is the window to the writer’s soul.

It’s deeply intimate, and it’s at the heart of countless love letters since the dawn of time.

There’s magic in the longhand.


But don’t take my word for it.

Take the advice of John le Carre, Tracy Chevalier, J.K. Rowling.


Care to join me?