Can I make a whole book this way? I suspect not, but am a bit unnerved to realise that – two chapters in at least – I appear, on my 13th novel, to have become a writing-by-hand person. Shame I’m not also an able-to-copy-type person. (Or indeed, one who can read her own handwriting easily!) Still, the notebook doesn’t have facebook or email access and the absence of both appears to be a Very Good Thing.
I’m easily distracted, I know (cf this blog!), but I have always been able to get on with the actual writing. Just at the moment however (admittedly with a bunch of health complications meaning it’s a lot easier to sit/lie elsewhere and write by hand than to sit at my desk and and type) sitting down at the keyboard seems to end up with emails and facebook and precious little else. And given my back/shoulder/hip (most recent, if not final, diagnosis of degenerative spine, nice – actually the man with the bone scan said it was a ‘degenerate spine’, I always knew these bones were louche, but that’s excessive!) are in agony within fifteen minutes, the solution is to not to sit for hours at keyboard. And notebook writing seems to allow me to move more freely, to sit in alleviating positions, in general, to just get on with it.
I have always written by hand when there hasn’t been a keyboard and screen available, and most recently I wrote my adaptation of Medea for Steam Industry by hand, primarily because, trying to write it in meter, I needed my left hand free to count beats while my right hand did the writing! But it’s always seemed to me a very long-winded way to go – I can’t type properly, though I do type fast, so the typing up of what I’ve written (fast and often close to illegibly!) is a bit of a mission. On the other hand, at the moment it also (again, only two chapters in!) appears to be something of an editing process. As if I’m writing the basics by hand, proper sentences and dialogue and everything, but not ‘beautifully’ and often not entirely fully, then adding/editing when I come to type it up. So far I’ve been typing quite soon after handwriting. I’m not sure I’d remember what I’d written if I didn’t!
I don’t know if I’ll keep it up for the whole book. And I don’t know if I’d want to. But I do know it appears to be working – yesterday, forcing myself to stay at/near desk, in pain and feeling stupid, I managed 175 words in keyboard/screen method. (and cut about another 500!). Today, in two hours, I’ve written about 500 already by hand and the 200-odd I’ve transcribed so far have already turned into 500 of their own. Maybe the slow thing is faster in the long run. Maybe I actually need to write this book by hand. Maybe I just need to be less distracted online!
Contrary to those who assert that writing by hand feels different than writing straight on to screen, feels more real or pure (or anything else that smacks of ‘the writer as mystic’) – well, it doesn’t for me. They both feel like writing to me. It’s just that the keyboard/screen version is proving a little too painful for the moment …
And no, I don’t have a fancy notebook. I did used to like those expensive moleskin ones, but really, they are way over-priced for what they are. A few weeks ago I bought four hardback A5 lined notebooks for £1 each. Bargain. And they do exactly the same job. I am rather enjoying the pen though (£1.50 from Muji), it’s a little too inky, but flows fast and I like that.