Pen/Pencil Vs. Keyboard

notebook and computer

It has been my practice from the time I first started writing stories in my early teens to coming back to writing in 2014 to write with a pencil in a spiral notebook.  Hold on… there was one novel I wrote in my early twenties that was directly typed into the computer, but that was the only one.  Otherwise it’s been pencil to notebook paper, and it always seems to work well and better for me.

But I’ve been asked why do I write out my stories twice–once on paper and then on the computer?  Why not just skip the first step and type straight on the glowing Word page?

So, I tried that with my last novella and my work in progress.  It took me this long to realize why I hadn’t done it in this manner for the most part.  I had many questions  that weren’t what my friends were asking.  These questions were, “Why am I having such a hard time formulating what I want to write in these sentences?  Why do I sit there pausing, searching for words to come to my head to create a simple sentence?”

At first, I thought it was the changing from writing in first person to third person.  But my novella was written in first person, so that, obviously, isn’t it.  Is my inner editor/critic interfering with my flow, expecting me to put down sentences perfectly correct the first time around?  No, I don’t think so.  It’s the problem of just typing them via the keyboard and watching them pop up on the white page on the computer screen.  It’s very sterile and uncreative to me.

empty white page on computer

I decided to look up information on the differences between writing out your story with a pen or pencil and typing it on the keyboard of your computer.  There were several articles on this.  One was from The Guardian.  There were a few explanations from authors that really cinched writing longhand for me (which I went back to a couple nights ago, and didn’t have any problems with what to say or with the point of view I was using).

Lee Rourke, the author of the article, is a writer with the pen first.  He explains, “Not only is longhand a much more portable way to write, it’s also much more individual.”  His writing process is like mine, in that he composes all his thoughts onto physical paper first and then transfers it to the computer.  In addition, he says, “There are far too many distractions when writing directly onto the screen. The internet being the main culprit.”

Rourke’s description of what it feels like to write longhand is what I experience.  He says, “In longhand, the hand moves freely across the page in a way no amount of computer jiggery-pokery can muster.”

Writing longhand mutes distractions and puts me in the creative realm where flow of language, imagery, and sentence structure comes much more naturally.

There is the subject of pace when writing, and from my own experience, my writing flows on paper and has little road blocks, but when I type, it’s as if I’m turning the key in my car’s ignition, and it coughs several times before rumbling to life, and the process continues with speed bumps interrupting and jostling my thought process and ability to write.  Writing is slower but more constant for me.

Author, Alex Preston mentioned in the article, discovered this pacing issue between writing longhand and typing on the computer, saying, “It’s important to find a tool that matches the pace of the writing. I composed my first book in a computerised blur; for the second, I wanted to be more scrupulous, more thoughtful. This is the pace of longhand. Writing with the fetish objects – the Uni-ball pen, the Rhodia notebooks –and watching the imprint of pen on page reminds us that writing is a craft. If everything is done on keyboards and fibre-optic wires, we may as well be writing shopping lists or investment reports.”

It’s true that composing my stories longhand feels more artistic, a real craft, as Preston said.  Perhaps, because the ideas flow on the page better and more beautifully has something to do with having a pencil in your hand rather than your fingers on a keyboard.

woman writing in notebook

It’s a known fact that students produce more ideas and retain better what they are learning through writing notes rather than typing them.  I believe this can apply to writing stories as well.

In a 2017 Huffington Post article, learning specialist, Patricia Ann Wade, says, “Writing entails using the hand and fingers to form letters … the sequential finger movements activate multiple regions of the brain associated with processing and remembering information.”

This article also brings up taking more time to write something via longhand is actually a good thing overall.  Wade adds the reason why slowing the pace matters is because, writing longhand, “requires more mental energy and engages more areas of the brain than pressing keys on a computer keyboard.”

Yes, and here is where my writing longhand is an affirmation for my ability to write more creatively.  The article goes on to say that writing with pen and paper “sparks creativity” (Pearson).

Finally, The Guardian author, Lee Rourke, finishes this subject of creativity by saying, “For me, writing longhand is an utterly personal task where the outer world is closed off, just my thoughts and the movement of my hand across the page to keep me company. The whole process keeps me in touch with the craft of writing. It’s a deep-felt, uninterrupted connection between thought and language which technology seems to short circuit once I begin to use it.”

All of this information hits home for me and confirms the benefits of writing with my pencil on paper.  I will continue this process from now on (shouldn’t have ever left it!), and will be happier for it.

Share below your thoughts on what works best for you in your writing.

 

Works Cited
Rourke, Lee.  “Why creative writing is better with a pen.”  The Guardian, 3 November 2011.  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/03/creative-writing-better-pen-longhand
Pearson, Catherine.  “The Benefits Of Writing With Gold Old Fashioned Pen and Paper.”  Huffington Post, 6 December 2017.  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/12/writing-on-paper_n_5797506.html

 

 

How to Keep Writing When You’ve Run Out of Steam in Your Work in Progress

painting of author stuck

There’s the topic of daily writing that is discussed and wrote about often to give us writers encouragement.  This is important because the more you write and read, the better your writing becomes.  But there is another aspect of writing that I’ve run into many times in the past but hadn’t thought about it until yesterday.  It was brought up in a Facebook writing group in which I’m a member.  This pertains to how to continue writing your work in progress without losing steam.

What happens when you write a few chapters and all of a sudden your mind goes blank, even though you know where you want your story to go.  Thinking about it and executing it are two different animals.  My present work in progress is a complex story in my view, as I am writing it from three different characters’ perspectives and they all tie into the main plot that strings their lives together.  Also, I’m writing in third person point of view.  I thought I wrote only in third person point of view in my teens and early twenties, but I didn’t have the knowledge of what that actually meant until my fiction writing course at SNHU and my online critique group over the past couple of years, so my stories were probably more omniscient points of view.  The fiction writing course, which I’m in right now, has helped me to understand it, but I am still in the process of practicing and trying to produce it.

writing scrabble blocks

On to the subject at hand–losing steam while in the midst of writing your novel, novella, or even your short story.  First, I want to add one more piece of information, which won’t really be novel (pun intended) to us writers, but I’m going there anyway!  Creating a story and writing it is a lot more difficult than I thought years ago.  Once you learn the elements of character, plot, setting/place, and structure, you realize it takes a lot more effort and technique and skill to write than you ever thought.  So, as you trudge forward in your chapters, you unexpectedly hit road bumps.  Those road bumps are your creative juices and ideas sputtering to a stop.  What do you do?

What I used to do and still do that sometimes works just on its own is reread the chapter I just wrote to stimulate the thoughts and continuation of the story and where I want it to go.  But I’ve incorporated something else that I believe really helps keep me on the greased tracks of continued creative writing.  I write pages of notes.  I’ve gotten into the habit of doing that.  It was discussed often in John Dufresne’s book I’m reading for my fiction writing workshop class that I mentioned I’m presently in.  So, just yesterday after writing a lot the day before, I hit that road block.  My mind was jumbled with the characters, the plot, like cut-out words from newspaper articles all haphazardly shuffled together in a disorganized heap.  How do I write the next chapter? Who is the next chapter about?  Am I continuing with the same character, or do I move on to the other one?  It needs to move the plot along.  What am I doing?

spiral notebook and pen

I begin writing more notes that turn out to be around four pages in my trusty spiral notebook.  Notes on what the next chapter will be about and who’s in it.  This expands to connected characters and what they are doing and why.  Questions appear in my scribblings, and I need to have answers for the story to make sense and to move forward, so I offer different responses and see which one sticks…which ones are most plausible and most believable.  Sometimes research is needed in this depending on the subject matter.  In any case, the jotting of notes continues until all those words about the characters, their actions, how they move the plot along, and the questions are answered satisfactorily, gives me enough ammunition to create my next chapter.  I will use this strategy/technique for each chapter if the flow of the next sequence of events isn’t happening or the gas tank of creativity is empty.

If you run into these road blocks in your writing, what do you do?  Was my process helpful to you?  Have you tried that already?  Please share your thoughts, fellow writers. 🙂

 

~*~*~*~

 

Pieces of Paradisiacal Prose

butterfly beauty

We all know and enjoy the written beauty that is found in poetry.  I know we readers also appreciate beautiful prose in fiction (and in creative nonfiction). When I come across such glorious text, I have to read it at least three times, drinking in the imagery, language, and writing style of the author’s work.  I’ve read a few books in the past two year mostly for my World Literature and Romantic Literature classes, and some of the writing really struck me at how stunning and masterfully written it was.  So, I’m going to share with you a few excerpts from three books.

plain truth book

First is a more contemporary piece.  It’s a piece of lovely writing from author, Jodi Picoult, in her novel, Plain Truth, that I read in my free time and finished a couple of weeks ago.  One of the main characters has been longing to have a child for the past several years, and she finds out she’s pregnant, which is a total surprise to her.  Here’s what the text says:

In the past five years, I had wanted a baby so much I ached. I would wake up sometimes beside Stephen and feel my arms throb, as if I had been holding a newborn weight the whole night. I would see an infant in a stroller and feel my whole body reach; I would mark my monthly period on the calendar with the sense that my life was passing me by. I wanted to grow something under my heart. I wanted to breathe, to eat, to blossom for someone else.

As a mother of two sons, I can not only relate to these words of hope, longing, and love, but also admire how she wrote it.

 

dr. jekyll & mr. hyde book

I read excerpts from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for my World Literature class several months ago, and I fell in love with Stevenson’s writing style.  It was beautiful.  Beautiful prose about the struggle of good and evil within a person.  I do plan to read the whole story one of these days!  The excerpt I’m going to share is the evil side that possessed the doctor as Hyde whenever he drank that nasty potion!

Instantly the spirit of hell awoke in me and raged. With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed, that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of terror. A mist dispersed; I saw my life to be forfeit; and fled from the scene of these excesses, at once glorying and trembling, my lust of evil gratified and stimulated, my love of life screwed to the topmost peg. I ran to the house in Soho, and (to make assurance doubly sure) destroyed my papers; thence I set out through the lamplit streets, in the same divided ecstasy of mind, gloating on my crime, light-headedly devising others in the future, and yet still hastening and still hearkening in my wake for the steps of the avenger. Hyde had a song upon his lips as he compounded the draught, and as he drank it, pledged the dead man. The pangs of transformation had not done tearing him, before Henry Jekyll, with streaming tears of gratitude and remorse, had fallen upon his knees and lifted his clasped hands to God. The veil of self-indulgence was rent from head to foot, I saw my life as a whole: I followed it up from the days of childhood, when I had walked with my father’s hand, and through the self-denying toils of my professional life, to arrive again and again, with the same sense of unreality, at the damned horrors of the evening. I could have screamed aloud; I sought with tears and prayers to smother down the crowd of hideous images and sounds with which my memory swarmed against me; and still, between the petitions, the ugly face of my iniquity stared into my soul.

Nearly all of Dr. Jekyll’s confession at the end of the book is like a psalmody.  Amazing and glorious writing style.

 

the last man by mary shelley

Lastly, I read The Last Man by Mary Shelley for my Romantic Literature class and absolutely fell in love with Shelley’s poetic, beautiful, flowing prose.  I was so moved by it, I read it at least five times, and to my husband, son, and friend.  It has to be some of the best writing I’ve ever laid eyes on!  Here are three excerpts of her aesthetic work:

The laughing morning air filled them while sun-light bathed earth, sky and ocean–the placid waves divided to receive our keel, and playfully kissed the dark sides of our little skiff, murmuring a welcome.

Behold us now in our frail tenement, hemmed in by hungry, roaring waves, buffeted by winds.  In the inky east two vast clouds, sailing contrary ways, met; the lightning leapt forth, and the hoarse thunder muttered.

I thought I saw Adrian at no great distance from me, clinging to an oar; I sprung from my hold, and with energy beyond my human strength, I dashed aside the waters as I strove to lay hold of him.  As that hope failed, instinctive love of life animated me, and feelings of contention, as if a hostile will combated with mine.  I breasted the surges, and flung them from me as I would the opposing front and sharpened claws of a lion about to enfang my bosom.  When I had been beaten down by one wave, I rose on another, while I felt bitter pride curl my lip.

 

Unbelievable talent!  I hope these pieces of paradisiacal prose made your day and life richer and more beautiful. 🙂  I’d love to see your favorite excerpts of aesthetic writings.  Please feel free to share them below. 🙂

 

~*~*~*~

 

 

My Short Play Making it to the Stage (Video Included!) & My Short Story Making it in the Finalist Category in a Writing Contest — All in One Week!

Book. Opened book with special light. Education

This week has been an amazing blessing from God.  I am so thankful for the gift of writing He has bestowed in me since childhood, that has been able to grow more than thirty years later.  As I have mentioned in past blog posts, I wrote a play for my creative writing class in 2015 when I was in my first year of online college at Southern New Hampshire University.  I had never written a play before.  It was really a screenplay at first.  I had to write something and had absolutely zero ideas of what to write.  I didn’t want to write something overdone, regurgitated too often, and for me, that meant a love relationship or some dire storyline.  But I couldn’t pull anything from my gray matter.  It sat there, lounging, out to lunch, not wanting to be present for this assignment.  So, I decided there was nothing else to do but to just start writing whatever came to my mind, no matter how stupid or incoherent.  Hey, it’s best to just get a gaggle of words down on the paper and worry about order and lucidity later.  In this process, I wrote ten pages of a play about nothing.  I named it “Falling Up Stairs” — the topic of the discussion in the play.  Ninety-eight percent of this play was written from a stream of consciousness, which tells you a lot about my brain’s functioning power to come up with ten pages of nothing.  The other two percent was making sure it made sense.  And lo and behold, it did.  What a relief!

I turned it in the week it was due, and shared it on the discussion forum the week after and got positive feedback from both my fellow students and professor.  They found my story funny and enjoyable.  This was good to know, not only grade wise, but that I was able to pull off a play that made some people laugh.  What a joy that is!

Fast forward to this past December when the director of artistic programming after several emails with me, set up a night for actors from the local theater in which she worked to read my two plays, “Falling Up Stairs” and “The Tricker’s Treat.”  Both plays came to life through these readings, and were enhanced by these actors’ brilliant jobs of reading with such animation and emotion.  I do hope that “The Tricker’s Treat” will come to the stage next fall.  God willing…!

And from that point, I signed up for the theater’s Open Mic night that was scheduled for January 20, 2018.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Noises Off with Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve, you’ll understand me when I say I felt like Michael Caine’s character, Lloyd, the director of the play.  Yes, my nerves were just about as bad as his, worrying how the play would go down in front of the live audience, and wondering if the actors had their lines completely down.  I’m an anxious sort of person, so this wasn’t unusual or surprising.

Noises Off pic of Caine taking valium

Well, I fretted over nothing (which is usually the case).  My play was performed by these three fantastic actors to a receptive audience last night (January 20, 2018).  I couldn’t have been more proud of them and their great work, or more pleased.  I am so grateful to them for having agreed to act out my play, and I thanked them both verbally and with a small gift for their effort.  You can watch the performance on the video below.

On Thursday, January 18, I received an email from a publishing company who had ran a writing contest online back in November 2017.  I was informed that my short story, “Summer Memories” had been chosen as one of the twelve finalist pieces that they will include in their anthology of short stories for this year.  I can’t tell you how incredibly thrilled, but at the same time stunned, I was that my story had been chosen.  This past November had been the first time I’d entered any of my stories in writing contests. I entered three of my short stories in three different contests, and one of them was selected.  It’s nearly impossible to express the elation I have felt from this.  My work has been recognized by editors at a publishing company.  My work that I’d edited myself and submitted thinking I may have a chance, but if my work wasn’t chosen as a finalist or didn’t win, that was all right, too.  It was a great learning experience and helped me to overcome my fear of putting my work out there for people to read and examine.  The catalyst was turning my plays over to the director at the theater.  This was the first time I’d let those in a professional field (in this case, play related) read over my work.  It broke the huge wall of fear I’d constructed for the past two years.  This fear paralyzed my ability to make headway in my writing until last October when I sent my plays to this director who was so supportive and encouraging.  Things changed rather drastically after that.  It was as if God had opened the doors and windows ahead of me as I walked this path of mine, the writing path, the path I’d been given the gift to trek.

I now wait to work with this publishing company through further correspondence on what comes next for my short story in their anthology.  I look forward to it.

The video is under eight minutes.  Please share your thoughts after watching my play on what you liked about it, and if it made you laugh.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Writer’s Block “is a fabrication”

writer's block wads of paper and pen

 

On Monday, January 8, my fiction writing workshop class at my online university starts up, and I’m reading two books:  The Lie that Tells the Truth by John Dufresne, and 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor.  I’ve already read one short story assigned for this week in the latter book, and I’m half way through the second chapter of Dufresne’s book assigned to us.  As I suspected, Dufresne’s book is excellent.  He writes with such clarity, wit, and animation, which is really fabulous for a book that’s published for teaching writing techniques to fiction writing students and beginner writers (but I think it’s valuable information for even experienced writers).  

john dufresne book the lie that tells the truth

In the first chapter assigned for us to read, he talks about getting in a routine of writing at least fifteen minutes each day in whatever place is your writing space.  If you get stuck, scan the things around your room, like a photograph of somebody or something, a colorful bird perched outside your window, or Mardi Gras beads, for example, and write about it.  You have still gotten in your writing for the day, and it wasn’t wasted because one of those items you wrote about may be useful in a future book.

In the second assigned chapter we are reading for the first week of this course that is eight weeks long (called a term, as are all undergraduate online classes at SNHU), he talks about writer’s block that clears up any ambiguity or belief in it.  Here’s an excerpt from the book on this (that I partially used in my blog title for this piece):

“Understand that if you didn’t write today, it’s because you didn’t want to. You didn’t have the perseverance or the courage to sit there. You lacked the will and the passion. Maybe you don’t enjoy it enough–we always find time to do the things we love. Your choice not to write–and it is a choice–had nothing to do with what has been called writer’s block. Writer’s block is a fabrication, an excuse that allows you to ignore the problem you’re having with your story, which means, of course, that you cannot solve the problem. But it does let you off the hook, doesn’t it? You can tell your friends, I have this strange and debilitating neurological paralysis that affects only writers and it’s untreatable. I just need to let it run its course. Saying you’ve come down with block gives something else the control over your behavior and conveniently absolves you from responsibility.

You must not accept or embrace this expedient but ludicrous notion that you can be blocked from writing. Writing is a job, like being a secretary is a job. And if you have a job, you go to work every day, or you lose the job.”

painting of author stuck

I don’t know about you, but this really opened my eyes.  After all, I thought I had “writer’s block” for nearly 18 years, as I’ve mentioned in a few of my blog posts.  But pondering those years, I was just busy and allowed all the things around me to take me away from my writing, and in most of those circumstances, they were legitimate reasons why.   Considering I was taking care of my youngest son’s special needs when he was a baby, toddler, and early grade school age, he needed to be my first priority.  It was only right he came before any thoughts of taking up writing again that I’d not touched in eight years by that time.  

But what I took away from Dufresne’s words, other than the fact that writer’s block isn’t real, is that writing is a choice and a job.  This is so important, and I am asking myself why hadn’t I considered this before?  It hadn’t even crossed my mind.  Why did I think of writing as more of a pastime or hobby?  Do published authors think what they’re doing is just a pastime or hobby?  I highly doubt it.  It’s what they do, their job. They put their hearts and souls, sweat and tears into their novels and short stories.  Therefore, what Dufresne says makes perfect sense, and these words need to be heeded and remembered always for us writers.  In fact, it would be good to jot this down in our notebooks and perhaps type them up in bolded, large print and hang it up near our writing space as a constant reminder whenever we are feeling stuck or distracted or lazy.  

In the weeks to come, I may write more blog posts on what John Dufresne has to teach us (he does teach at a college in Florida) on the techniques and art of writing.  Until then, keep on keeping on with the pen to the paper or hands on the keyboard and eyes on the  MS Word document filling up with your thoughts in black and white.

~*~*~*~

 

 

The Most Excellent and Insightful Advice for Writers in Creating a Story

A few weeks back, I happened upon this wonderful TEDx talk that blew me away.  The author gave step by step descriptions and instructions on how to write a story.  He brought us viewers into the imagined world of his characters.  We writers believe we know how to do this already, but we never stop learning, and I learned a great deal from this presentation.  In fact, it was the most superb, insightful, and profoundly helpful talk I’ve ever heard or seen on creating a story.  I am sharing it in the hopes that all my fellow writers will find much use in it and gain further knowledge in the art of writing.

(courtesy of and credited to TEDx Talks shared on youtube)

His tips on setting helped me tremendously in writing my latest story I began December 7.  I was thrilled to be able to apply it gently into the beginning scene of this newest work of mine, for which I am not sure whether it will be a short story, novella, or novel.  It will be fun to see where my characters and storyline lead me.

Incidentally, a book I’ll be reading for my fiction writing workshop class that starts early next month is written by Mr. Dufresne.  It’s called Lie That Tells a Truth:  A Guide to Writing Fiction.  How awesome is that?

Please share your comments below on what you thought and took away from this presentation!

~*~*~*~

(Since I was only able to find this on youtube, I was not able to embed it directly from TED.com.)