Thursday, June 19, 2014

Writing Or Typing

In the age of the computer, laptop, and tablet writing longhand is becoming obsolete. I tried to fight it as long as possible. In college, I NEVER brought my laptop to class to take notes. I always preferred writing out my notes in a lined notebook with a mechanical pencil. I rarely even used pens.

When it comes to writing fiction, though, I feel most comfortable typing on my laptop. I think this is mainly because I'm timid when I'm writing. I never know if what I'm writing is going to work or if it will last through a revision. By typing on my laptop, I feel like it's much easier to erase or start over and add a paragraph in the middle of a page that didn't exist before. Writing on paper, to me, seems more permanent and it makes me feel like I have no room for error because making changes on paper is harder.

Instead, I'll plan out what I want to write on paper; I'll write down questions I want to answer, ideas for scenes, character names and traits, and plot ideas among other things before I open my laptop to begin writing.

There still are downsides to writing on a laptop, though. My laptop is eternally connected to the time consuming, mind numbing hole that the internet can too often become. I don't have great self control and I find myself becoming distracted with funny articles, time wasting quizzes, and Facebook photos of people I haven't seen (in person) in years! When I finally look up at a clock and see that I just wasted three hours pinning photos of kitchens on Pinterest, it makes me wish I had opted for notebook writing that day.

So is one choice better than the other? Maybe, or maybe it depends on the writer. Believe it or not, there are still authors who write everything the old fashioned way. For example, Joyce Carol Oates. She has 56 novels, 30 short story collections, and volumes of plays, poetry, and nonfiction work to her name. All of which were written by hand. And her novels are typically long, mind you. Her most recent novel is over 500 pages.

Author Lily King, whose most recent novel Euphoria is generating a great deal of praise, recently stated in an article with the Boston Globe that she writes by hand with a pencil before transcribing it onto her computer as part of her revisions process.

Another famous author, the late Truman Capote, had a similar method. He divulged his own writing method in a 1957 interview with the Paris Review. Capote wrote both his first and second draft of a story or novel in pencil. He would type the third draft on a typewriter using yellow paper. The fourth and final draft would be done in the same manner but with white paper, marking it as complete.

Knowing that so many established writers have been successful writing long hand, I wonder if it could be a known but unheeded key to literary accomplishment.

How do you write? Do you think there is a better option when it comes to notebook or laptop?

Now I want to buy a typewriter and see if that makes a difference!

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