Writing By Hand

I was rather bemused to see a large stationery chain advocating the benefits of writing by hand. With actual pens and paper. There was a mention of an Australian survey which confirmed that people who wrote in this way for 15-20 minutes a day reported various benefits including a greater sense of well-being and life satisfaction. My inner cynic wondered if this was just another way to sell more stationery.

But perhaps that is because I already do what is advocated by the survey. For years I have kept a brief diary with a line or two about each day. Looking back, I’m not sure what started it. I think it may have been a way to record subtle changes and events, and it has come in handy when I’ve wanted to see how I reacted to something months or years after the event. These record of the passing of days have been on Filofax diaries, and I have years of these scored with pens of varying colour, the pages heavy with the moments of a life. In recent months I have added three things I’m grateful for to the end of each day.

The twenty minutes of handwriting happens in my A5 journals. These are usually hard backed books with enough pages to capture three months or so worth of daily morning pages. These pages capture in more detail what is going on in my life and the world in general, along with snippets of news and updates on people I care about. Frustrations and victories are afforded equal billing, and I always feel better for having spent the time to write, even on days when I think there is absolutely nothing in my mind worth recording.

Occasionally I flick back through these pages, and I am usually rewarded with something to smile or laugh about, or reminded of something that seemed to dominate my life at a particular point. Until the next obsession came along. And there are snatches of dreams and story ideas which can be teased into something more substantial.  It has become a habit, and it is rare for me to miss a morning session. Occasionally I write at the end of the day, but I prefer to start the day with the rhythm and routine of the words on the page.

And I still write some creative work by hand. My notebooks are full of scratchings and thoughts, and as I write much slower than I type there is a different level of focus or energy about these writing sessions.

Do you write by hand?

[Photo: writing notebook scratchings]

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Writing every day. Well, nearly.

I go through periods of consistency with my writing. Having a routine to make sure I get the writing done early, before the day gets too far underway, works best for me.

I listen to podcasts on my daily commute. Half an hour each way slips by that much quicker as I listen to ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’ with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait, or more recently ‘Your Creative Life’ by Vanessa Carnevale. The interviews with authors  provide interesting insights into the habits of working writers. I am inspired by people who aim for a minimum number of words on the page, such as 500 a day. It doesn’t sound that much, but there are days when even a relatively small figure such as this is harder than I would have thought possible.

When the words flow there is nothing quite like it. Everything else seems to recede into insignificance, my fingers fly, I can see what is happening and what might happen next. It is enthralling.

As a grand gesture on 1 January 2014, I started working through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. There are still elements of the workbook that remain in my life, and the morning pages are the most important. I write slowly by hand but every day I churn out my 3 pages. They contain a mixed assortment of thoughts and plot points and story ideas and dream fragments and the odd rant about someone or something that has annoyed me and that I can’t quite let go of yet. Until I write it out.

Sometimes I flick back through these pages, and there is reassurance at times in knowing that I got through something that seemed insurmountable, or I find the essence of an idea that ended up working its way into a short story. Or I stumble across the seed of an idea that I can now expand upon.

Now if I could only challenge this discipline into working on my creative output every day. How often do you write?