Writing by Hand

One of the biggest problems inexperienced writers encounter is editing themselves as they write. You know how it is: you sit at the computer, deliberating over the next sentence. You write it, finally, and then you go back and you rewrite it. You write the next sentence or two, and then you back up and fix one or two sentences. And so on, and so forth.

I can’t stress enough how detrimental to the creative process it is to edit yourself as you write. When you sit down to write, you simply need to write. Do not edit, “fix,” massage, or otherwise interfere with what you’ve written.

I know, I know. You’re painfully aware that what you wrote on the last page wasn’t right, that you could have said such-and-such better, that you need to look up the capital of Suriname.

Maybe so. But when you pay that sort of hyper-alert attention to your writing during the actual writing process, you’ve giving an ear to your internal censor. Your internal censor, you know, really doesn’t think you should be writing at all. If you pay him the sort of attention that results in your rewording, redescribing, adding to, and Googling obscure details, then pretty soon he will convince you that you shouldn’t have even tried to write whatever it is that you’re writing, and you’ll trash the whole project.

Pen and paperSo how do you overcome the temptation to edit as you write? One simple way is to try an antiquated way of writing known as “writing by hand.” Yes, back in olden times, people actually did write their novels and short stories with pen and paper—and you should try it, too.

Why? Because when you’re writing by hand, you flat-out have less of an opportunity to rewrite. You can’t easily delete, rearrange, and reword much of anything. Whatever you write, well, it stays there.

This might absolutely horrify you. You might think your first efforts are always so terrible that you don’t want to have to look at them.

Again, maybe so. But by writing by hand, you can more easily discipline yourself to do what you should be doing: just writing.

So try it out. Not just for a few pages; stick with it long enough to get the hang of it. Stick with it until you start liking what you’re writing.

You might be surprised how quiet that censor gets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *