Thursday, May 06, 2021

Writing or Typing?

I read an interesting quote once by a poet that went something like this: I write 23 hours a day, I type for one. It indicated that the poet spends a lot of time in her head. Similarly, Truman Capote once said of Jack Kerouac’s work, That’s not writing, that’s typing.

Typing vs. Writing is a concept I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. No, no one said to me what Capote said of Kerouac; not yet, anyway. But I do know myself: when I get in trouble on the page, I’m overwriting. 

I once believed overwriting came from over-thinking. I don’t believe that anymore. I believe overwriting comes from not thinking enough. I’ve turned to journaling –– thinking through my plot in my notepad. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, nor should it have taken me this long to figure out. In my classroom, students must free-write in a notebook, never on a computer, because we know they digest the material better when writing longhand. Why it took me until age 51 to take my own advice is a conversation for another day (or post).

But now I’m much more likely to slow down or even stop writing and return to my journal. I’m not working from an outline. The journal is where I think things through, where I make realizations, where I solve the puzzle I’ve created. In short, it’s where I trouble-shoot. It saves me from writing scenes (or as many as I usually write) that will never see the light of day in a final draft. It’s also a place where I can make plot decisions. This is key for me. In the journal, I’m making deductions and figuring out why and how things have happened to date. For a “pantser” (someone who writes best by the seat of his pants), the journal provides a safety net.

It takes me away from the keyboard and, if I’m being honest, slows me down. But both of those are good things. We’ve all spent too much time in front of our computer screens these past 18 months; and slowing down to speed the novel up, is a trade I’m willing to make.


Anna said...

"Slowing down to speed the novel up" --- I'm going to take that and run with it.

Tanya said...

Bravo -- you've raised some very important points. Writing in longhand activates more areas of the brain associated with learning and emotion than using a keyboard. This article sums up some of the research:

A few years ago I was mortified to discover that cursive writing is no longer taught in many schools. But it seems there was a backlash and some states have taken action to require it or reinstate it.