Does Anyone Use a Notebook Anymore?

Author:
Publish date:

An informal poll: how many of you write longhand? I’m not talking about your jotting, your journaling, or your observation-making here, but about your actual drafting of a story. Conversely, how many, like me, write exclusively on a computer?

The reason I ask is because a friend of mine advised me to try writing longhand when I’m stuck on a scene; she said that while it may seem totally anachronistic—like driving a station wagon or listening to a walkman or making your own coffee—the change in process might free up my mind and allow me to solve the problem my story has created. When I bristled at the idea, she advised, “What was good enough for Shakespeare should be good enough for you.” True, I thought, but then, chamber pots were good enough for Shakespeare, too. I’m sure that, given the choice, he’d have used a toilet. You make do with what’s available to you, don’t you?

There are so many benefits to writing on a computer; the primary having to do with revisions. I change my work constantly whenever I re-read it; if I were to do this on anything other than a Word document, the scratch-outs would render the work totally illegible. And, like most of us who had to take keyboarding in grammar school, I type a lot faster than I write. And a lot more neatly. And spelled a lot more accurately. And with the added bonus of the thesaurus feature and the ease of online research. And more easily saved, and in more places (we’ve all heard the story of Hemingway’s lost suitcase full of manuscripts. Don’t you wish he could have just emailed them to himself?)

But then I got worried. I mean, what if I am too dependent on the computer? What if the medium of the laptop throws some sort of a wedge between the communion of brain and hand and pen and paper? What if I couldn’t go back and revise constantly—what option would that leave me except to continue writing forward, however sloppily? Is it better to have a rough, handwritten manuscript that’s finished from beginning to end, or a meticulously crafted fifteen pages in Courier New? Sometimes I think the former is much better, and that means that perhaps if you’re a compulsive reviser like I am, longhand is the best way to achieve that.

And it’s also true that you have less freedom when you write exclusively by computer. What ever happened to the idea of the roving poet, scribbling away in his notebook on the train, next to the fountain, under the stone bridge, beside the sea? Wouldn’t it by nice to have nothing but a paper and pen when you’re writing the afternoon away under a willow tree?

But then, who among us has ever actually written anything under a willow tree? It just all seems so…Elizabethan.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 575

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a safe poem.

ryoji-iwata-QKHmi6ENAmk-unsplash

I Spy

Every writer needs a little inspiration once and a while. For today's prompt, someone is watching your narrator ... but there's a twist.

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

Brian Freeman: On "Rebooting" Another Writer's Legacy

In this article, Brian Freeman, author of Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Treachery, discusses how he took up the mantle of a great series and made it his own.

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Sole vs. Soul (Grammar Rules)

Learn how to distinguish the sole from the soul with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

How to Make the Most of a Virtual Writing Workshop or Conference

In this brave new world of virtual learning and social distance, Kristy Stevenson helps us make the most of the virtual conference.

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

When Is Historical Accuracy Inaccurate?

Writers of historical fiction must always ride the line between factual and fictitious. Here, author Terry Roberts discusses how to navigate that line.

What Is Creative Nonfiction in Writing?

What Is Creative Nonfiction in Writing?

In this post, we look at what creative nonfiction (also known as the narrative nonfiction) is, including what makes it different from other types of fiction and nonfiction writing and more.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Four WDU Courses, a Competition Deadline Reminder, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce four WDU courses, a Competition deadline reminder, and more!

Funny You Should Ask: What Is Going to Be the Next Big Trend in Fiction?

Funny You Should Ask: What Is Going to Be the Next Big Trend in Fiction?

Funny You Should Ask is a humorous and handy column by literary agent Barbara Poelle. In this edition, she discusses the next big fiction trend, and whether or not all books are the same.