Thursday, October 05, 2006

On Reestablishing Contact with the Handwritten Word

I have been having an inordinate amount of fun lately with writing. With journaling, plot, theme, character and all that, too, but specifically with the simple, human act of writing by holding an ink-bearing stylus of some kind in my hand, and wiggling that hand in a more or less (usually less) disciplined way as I move it across a sheet of paper.

Most of the rest of the world figured this out back last year or so, what with the Moleskine craze and Getting Things Done movement taking off; but this is the romance of hand-writing, come home to roost in my personal nest.

Typing vs. Writing
Typing has a lot to recommend it, and I type for several hours each day in my day job. But typing, being a digital activity, both in the sense of using the digits on the ends of one's hands, and in the output (these days) being stored in a digital computer, exercises certain linguistic and manual-dexterity parts of your brain, yes. But typing is primarily a process of selection: your brain selects sequences of individual letters and punctuation (representing in their effect the words you want to convey to your target medium) and engages your hand and arm muscles to push the buttons on the keyboard in front of you, in more or less the proper sequence.

Writing, by contrast, is an expressive effort. You and your body are responsible for every contour of the words you write: we draw our handwritten words, and so every person's penmanship is unique, just like his or her fingerprints. Our handwriting's looseness, flow and tidiness vary with our state of mind. It's actually a wondrous thing, considering how each of us is so different from one another, that we can read one another's handwriting at all. Of course, each of us has tried and failed to read a particularly badly scribbled prescription on occasion, so we know it's hardly foolproof.

Everything Old is New Again
I've written a diary entry and/or bit of prose and/or series of story-idea notes every day after procuring my first Moleskine notebooks. It started as a sensual thing: pretty notebooks, nifty pens, but it's since become a comforting end-of-day routine. Feed the dogs, eat dinner, do an errand or two, shutter the lights in the rest of the house, perhaps read for a bit, and then scribble in my notebooks for an hour or so in bed on my lap desk before turning in.

I find, that since typing is faster and more efficient (due to its digitality), I've really had to slow my thinking down when it comes to writing. It's thrown off my e-mail communication rhythm with Amy (poor Princess!) something fierce, but she's been very understanding so far. Typing up this blog entry has helped me reacquaint myself with thinking and typing, actually.

The brain is a funny place. I'm having a blast, and prepping for NaNoWriMo at the same time.


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