Writing Tips: The Moleskine Method, Part 2
November 16, 2009 7 Comments
In the previous entry, I introduced the Moleskine, describing its features and plugging it to writers who are on the go or need help with organization. In this entry I explain why I think writers should get comfortable with writing in longhand—a skill that’s required if you’re to make use of what I will now call “The Moleskine method.”
In the digital age, writing in longhand is a lost art. Right up through college I wrote mostly in longhand and payed a fellow student (invariably a girl who interested me) to type for me. It never seemed inconvenient to me, certainly not in comparison with typing. (And, as I hinted without much subtlety, it had a social benefit.) Even after I received a Brother electronic typewriter for Christmas, I wrote drafts in longhand before typing them myself (or loaning my typewriter to “hired help.”)
It wasn’t until I was preparing my Ph.D. dissertation that I had a personal computer—the vaunted Mac SE. Easy access to this technology gradually weaned me from my habit of longhand writing. And I noticed a difference in my writing experience. It wasn’t as fluid; it was mechanical. It wasn’t as graceful; it was clunky. It wasn’t as personal; it was manufactured. My plight wasn’t simply a matter of adapting to the digital world (for example, learning to trust that what was no longer on the screen was still “there”).
I’ve never overcome the sense that what I actually put on the page while writing would be different if instead I had composed with a word processor. Not only the words, but the concepts and thoughts would vary. And they would suffer when relying on a word processor in a way they would not in longhand. Other writers testify to the same thing. And some won’t go near a keyboard.
Whatever the creative advantages of writing by hand, there is the unequivocal benefit of convenience under very common conditions. Neither my laptop nor my iPhone serve on all occasions—or even most occasions. Because of our obsession with technological “advances,” we expect our writing needs to be simplified by turning to these devices. But then complications arise. “I’m here and my laptop is somewhere else. I guess I can’t write.” “I can’t see all my pages at once, and rearrange them by sight. I guess I’ll have to print a hard copy . . . again.” “Whose document is this? Did I write it? I can’t tell; everybody uses the same font.” And so on. Paper is (thanks to the computer!) ubiquitous. The living room floor, or the bedroom wall, is expansive enough to place drafts side-by-side and to reorganize sections within view of each other. And my handwriting is unique and uniquely recognizable by me (and possibly only legible for me).
OK—some of these are at best unconscious concerns.
Still, there’s no denying the advantage of paper when your computer is tucked away (in your bag or in another state), or takes too long to boot up for you to remember what you were thinking, or doesn’t serve for bedside writing in the middle of the night (a time of particularly fruitful thinking for writers). Unfortunately, resorting to paper is generally regarded as the “next best thing,” and way down on the scale of utility when compared with the computer. I maintain that actual “writing” is the best thing, perhaps most of the time.
Unless you don’t know how.
Knowing how has two aspects. First, there’s being able to get things from mind to paper, a different process than word processing. Second, there’s having a technique for exploiting the full advantages of the “writing” habit. Part 3 in this series will introduce a few guidelines for using “The Moleskine Method.”
Previously in this series:
Next in this series:
Note: For value, I suggest purchasing the Moleskine from Amazon. I’ve linked here to the version of Moleskine I use for writing. This is the “ruled cahier journal x-large” (black). Three journals are included in one set.
Related articles Doug has written:
- If You Don’t Feel Like Writing, You Can Always Read about It (douggeivett.com)