Monday, March 22, 2010

The Old-Fashioned Way

Writing on a computer is a very different experience to writing by hand.

Mostly I prefer to write on a computer - it's faster, it's handier, it's easier to email someone a paragraph that just isn't working and beg them for help. But when I started my Rosie novel, I started writing by hand. Partly because it snuck up on me (I went for a cup of tea intending to do some writing and a bit of a novel started), but also because I was returning to writing after a long break and I wanted no excuses. I wanted to be able to write anywhere, once I had a notebook and a pen in my bag. None of this 'Oh, but my laptop is at home with my novel on it, and I'm in the city centre with an hour to spare. . . guess I'll go for cake' messing. No thinking 'I can't write there, there isn't a plug socket.' My novel had to come everywhere with me, short of the bathroom.

Portability is less of a problem now that I own a netbook with good battery life, but I still occasionally like to write by hand.

I'm playing with a very silly story at the moment to amuse myself and I'm writing it by hand. I felt for a long time that I wanted to write a very light-hearted fantasy story, possibly with some adventure elements, and it was a particular notebook that made it all come together in my head. I'd just accepted a new job but hadn't started yet, so I had potential money, but not very much actual money. I fancied a treat but it couldn't be anything too pricey, so I went into my favourite stationery shop and that was when I saw it. And when I saw it, I got a better idea of the kind of story I wanted to write in it.

It was on a shelf beside a big, thick, old-fashioned, stamped leather notebook (a gorgeous piece in its own right, and on my want list), which also could have worked for the kind of story I was in the mood for. But the paper-covered one with the flowers on it just seemed right, and still does.

And I wonder sometimes if, in the switch to writing on computers, we've lost a small ritual. Finding the right notebook - a terrible timewaster, but such good fun.

Or I did wonder. Until a few days ago.

I'm typing up my handwritten story as I write it. But my usual Times New Roman just felt wrong.

I settled on Baskerville some time later :)


  1. I love going from computer to long hand to hard copy to soft copy. The brain works in interesting ways and switching our gears is a great way to tap into our creative potential. I totally love the idea of the fantasy story!!

  2. I still am never without a pen and notebook in my bag. Good for anything -- even making notes that pop into my head when I'm not doing much of anything else.

  3. I am continually amazed at how many writers still scribe away by hand. I make notes obviously to keep track of what I am typing, but I simply couldn't write novels that way.

    Articles and essays, now that is a different matter.

  4. I haven't used a notebook in ages! I really miss them. I used to scrawl away until my hand seized up.

    I still love buying them though and there is always one on me, though they tend to be used for lists and reminders now.

    I do miss the longhand; it felt more solid and personal when my stories were written in my illegible handwriting.

  5. Hi!

    There is one independent stationer's place here that isn't whsmiths - but a definite local place. Unfortunately it's near enough closing down - there's just been a huge, huge sale as in "everything must go" that really is a shame! Anyway - me being a lover of old fashioned developed print photographs, I needed a good ol photo album and so bought one there. I fell for the cover! It's a painting of flowers - very girly and lovely!

    Just been through a big blog discussion on how Kindle will wipe out all that is printed and it's kind of the way things are going but I'm a bit depressed by all of that. I love my big silly printed books...

    Take care

  6. Change is always good even if it's just the font!

    I always have a pen and paper handy for ideas that come along while at work or shopping however actually writing by hand doesn't work for my tendinitis so I find that typing I can work a lot quicker than on paper!!

  7. The best thing about typing for me is the speed. Second best is the dazzling array of font choices (I have a font problem).

    I love writing this particular story in a nice notebook with a slipcover, but even for this one, the slowness is driving me nuts. My typing speed is nothing special but it's faster than my handwriting, especially since the last time I had to write a lot by hand was for my final exams in 2005.

    The story is bigger than the notebook and I'm debating whether or not to buy a second notebook when this one is full or just switch to typing. I'll let you all know :)

    Incidentally, the famous notebook came from Daintree Paper on Camden Street, which is great and deserves some credit -


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