A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I do all of my story writing on my laptop. I typed faster than I wrote; it was easier to change things in Word, which helped me loosen up and get into the flow; it was just more convenient…blah, blah, blah. All that is still mostly true. Typing is faster and definitely more environmentally friendly when you have handwriting like a gigantic chicken’s (4 handwritten pages = about 2 typed pages for me). Instead of ripping out entire pages and starting over, you hit the backspace key. In short: I thought I was done with handwritten first drafts.
I’m not. Here’s what changed my mind.
A couple weeks ago I started a new project. It was going to be about girl power and superheroes and steampunk, and I was incredibly excited to start writing it. So, I began typing it into Google Docs…and tanked after just one chapter.
About a week later I started another project that I was also incredibly excited about (my ideas tend to come in batches). This one was about girl power and zombies. I began typing it into Google docs and—same story—burned out near the middle of the second chapter.
A week after that I was working on developing another idea I had; one I’d had for ages and really, really wanted to do right. And I began to think of all the false starts I’ve had over the past couple of years, and how they all turned out basically the same—after only a few pages I lost confidence in the idea and just couldn’t think of any way to improve it.
Around the same time I was also rereading Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon (if you haven’t already read this book, you need to) and I got to chapter four. Chapter four is all about using your hands, and in it Austin Kleon recommends doing your first drafts on paper— “The computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in us”.
I don’t think that my uptight perfectionist really needs any help being brought out, but after reading that chapter I remembered how much fun I used to have handwriting my first drafts. Sure, they were all crap, but everything I wrote back then was crap and at least I had fun. So I decided that for my newest project, I’d try to go back to using a pen and a legal pad, and see what happened.
I’m not far in enough yet to tell if it will stick—and if I won’t end up abandoning this one, too—but I am having a TON more fun scribbling on wide-ruled paper than I ever did typing into Google Docs, at least recently. My writing is flowing, not dribbling out in bits and pieces like it usually does on the computer. And at the end of a session, when I sit back and look at the hunk of paper sitting on my desk, I feel like I’ve actually created something.
I’m not saying that all my first drafts will be handwritten from now on (but who knows?) or that the computer is some kind of demon instrument. It’s just that different writers find different methods that work for them, and I’m still very much in the process of finding one that works for me. Something about seeing my terrible handwriting on paper makes it easier for me to accept the imperfections in the first draft, and once I can do that, actually finishing it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. And that’s a wonderful feeling.