It’s been a while! I regretfully admit that I’ve all but forgotten about this website and my self-imposed obligation to post monthly. Ah, well. It’s happened before, and it will surely happen again. At least this time, I have a decent excuse.
I’ve been working on a story — an original piece — that’s been on my mind a long time now, but lacked a setting till recently. I know that sounds weird — how can you even conceptualize a story without a setting? Well, I totally can! I had some vague ideas but the vagueness was so vast that it was barely discernible from void. And then, pretty much out of nowhere, I knew how to fill that void; this in turn allowed me to start getting things from my head and onto the page.
With a caveat. This figurative page is actually a growing collection of notebooks filled with bits and pieces, scenes and worldbuilding notes, good and bad ideas, and copious journaling (that’s when I talk to myself about my writing, in writing; like this post! only in private). The unusual thing about this is the physical nature of it all. The paper, the pens, the inks (I’m a budding fountain pen enthusiast) — it’s a whole little world of paraphernalia that the digital form lets us skip, and eventually forget. It makes sense, as writing on paper with a glorified quill definitely cannot compete in terms of productivity with typing in a word processor. But productivity isn’t always a priority.
When I was a teen, I wrote with fountain pens in notebooks all the time. It was my main modus operandi; so much so that even years later, random acquaintances from middle and high school would ask me if I finally wrote my book. Sadly, my answer always was, and still would be — no. I stopped writing completely during my university days and for years after, and when I did begin again, it was always in digital form. Here and there I kept notes in longhand, but it wasn’t until recently that I rediscovered the pleasure in this, and found it an effective way to get through the creative block (caused, in this case, by the void mentioned above).
The downsides of writing in longhand are many and obvious. You need paper and writing implements; you need a desk or another hard surface; you can’t easily delete what you’ve written and redo it, much less times and times again as it’s so often the case when editing a digital document; you can’t cut and paste, drag and drop; comments and notes must be written in small margins or in a separate place; if you use loose paper instead of a notebook, there’s the matter of keeping everything in order; if you use a notebook, there’s the matter of keeping things organized, especially if you jump from scene to scene, between story (or even different stories), worldbuilding and journaling.
So what are the upsides, you wonder? Smile. There’s a special pleasure in filling an actual, physical page with actual, written words; in holding a favorite pen and feeling it glide over smooth paper; in the color of the ink, the angle of the letters and the neat lines. Shuffling the written pages gives much better progress feedback than the word counts; shuffling the unwritten ones stimulates the imagination.
And then there’s the aspect of transiency. I find that words in longhand, despite their physicality, are in fact much less substantial than those in a digital document. It’s all a draft! It’s all temporary. So it doesn’t matter if it’s good. The pain of editing is too great to attempt anything but the simplest corrections, so I’m forced to go on, accepting it as is, or rewriting it from scratch.
It’s incredibly liberating. I just sit down, flip the first empty page, and write whatever! It might be a journal entry (basically, freewriting), notes (ideas, worldbuilding) or actual content — I don’t even try to keep up a continuity. I just write. It’s so simple, but somehow it never worked for me with my usual process.
This works, for now, and I’m enjoying it immensely.