Writing by Hand

A few weeks ago, near the beginning of the month, I was invited by Christie Wyman of Wondering and Wandering to participate in a TeachWrite workshop hosted by Jennifer Laffin. As life right now would have it, I wasn’t able to participate in the next workshop, but I was able to participate in one last week. It was fun, and I thank both Christie and Jennifer for the opportunity to be there (Zoom there?).

As the workshop got started, the participants were invited to do a number of things, one of which was to write in our notebooks.

Notebooks.

Errr, my notebook.

I have a strange relationship* with notebooks. In principle, I love them. I have several. I encourage (okay, require) my classroom students to use them. I mean, come on: A notebook! All writers use notebooks, right? I have several, and I even write in them. On occasion. Sometimes. Okay…rarely.

I know I’m supposed to, but more often than not, when I need a notebook to jot down an idea I don’t have one with me. Yes, I’ve tried a pocket notebook, but it only lasted a few days. What about when you sit down to write, one might ask? Honestly, typing (keyboarding…I know) is just easier. As an added bonus, when I use a computer, my work is now on all of my devices since I write in the world that is Google.

Anyway, back to the workshop. I did! I did write in my notebook. The novelty of doing so got me thinking about the process, and the first two stanzas of a poem actually came out of the time with the group. In the spirit of things, I actually finished the piece, then revised and edited it with a pencil on the page. Oddly enough, it came out with a rhyme scheme. That doesn’t happen often, but I like it when it does


Despite the ending, I really do like notebooks. Sort of.

Notebook

A pencil on paper
A mark on the page
It’s like watching live music
Or an actor on stage

It’s not fingers on keys
And there isn’t a screen
It’s real, and it’s physical
Do you see what I mean?

Is it good? Is it better?
This writing by hand?
Does this scribbling unplugged
See my vision expand?

I think that it doesn’t
— Leave those voices ignored
You can keep all that scratching
And I’ll keep the keyboard

 

*then again, maybe I don’t–maybe I have a normal one and just don’t know it!

11 Comments

  1. I have so many notebooks, everywhere as well, with about four pages used. I think your relationship with notebooks sounds like mine! I have found that I need to use a notebook to brainstorm my heart maps, use arrows to connect ideas & bullet points, etc. but if I’m ready to really write, I need to do it digitally because it’s faster.

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    1. I think our notebook relationships are very much so alike! They are great for brainstorming and putting the pieces together, but writing is just faster on a keyboard. I’ve often said that the two best things I learned in high school were typing (on a typewriter at the time) and sewing. I don’t sew much, but type? Every day!

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  2. I love this piece! (And was glad to meet you in that workshop!!) Both the notebook and my computer are part of my writing process. Some pieces I can only start and develop in the notebook; some pieces only on the computer. I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason with what gets written first where, but somehow I figure it out. What I love about my notebook is that it forces me to slow down, to think more carefully, to be really present, and to really notice. Writing feels more crafted, more made, when I am writing longhand rather than typing, though technically I’m using my hands for both of course. But somehow, as you note in your lovely poem, it feels more physical to write by hand.

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    1. Elisabeth, I was glad to meet you (and your cat) there, too! It was a good experience and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

      Since writing this piece and the poem, I’ve been reevaluating my use of notebooks for many of the reasons you mentioned in your comments. When I’m on a computer, things hit the screen fast and aren’t–perhaps–as thought out as they could be. I do a significant amount of revision and editing before I publish anything (that’s where Docs comes in handy), but I know that writing by hand would cause me to be more attentive to my initial efforts. Thank you for your insights!

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  3. Yeah, I have dusted my out recently (the one and only) and that’s all that happened. The computer is so much more convenient I find. And yet funny that I ask my students to do the same. Time for a change maybe eh? Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Alex, I’m thinking it might be time for a change as well. It is funny how I (we) ask students to do things that aren’t in my own practice. Thanks for your comments (and for your own post today).

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  4. First – I love TeachWrite and all that they do to promote and support great writing – which involves great thinking. Next – your post struck me on an interesting personal level: with the blog and other “works in progress” I have become comfortable with the keyboard. I keep ideas for writing in my phone and in a tiny notebook, just right for such fragments. But when it came to writing poetry in April – I have never tried to write a poem a day for National Poetry month before – I found myself digging out a composition notebook. The pages are now covered with poem-skeletons, fully-fleshed ones, syllable counts, ideas, forms to try … there’s something about the freedom of movement with paper and pencil especially when it comes to poetry. That’s my experience, anyhow. Oh, the joy of a rhyme scheme just “coming out” – I love when that happens! Sometimes I feel the beats before I even begin writing a rhyming poem but most often not and do those poems EVER hate to be forced. I so enjoyed this post, on so many levels – full of truths.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Fran. I have been working with the notebook more, and find myself drawn to it for poetry. I’ve been thinking about it over the past week, and I think a lot of my prose is like this reply I’m composing: I know what I want to say, so I just do it “in place” where I’m going to use it. I revise a bit, do some editing, make sure it’s what I want to say, and then it’s ready to go. I wonder if trying something larger or more involved would take me toward a notebook or at least a pencil. Hmmm. Thanks again!

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  5. I’m much the same way with notebooks! I have several that are partly used. But, I started working on a Master’s Degree this past September and I found I needed a notebook to keep myself organized. I was doing a lot of online reading and I couldn’t take notes and read online at the same time – too confusing! But I started a notebook to take notes, write rough drafts, etc. It was just like old times and just what I needed. I love your poem at the end!

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! The other day I was doing some writing for school (science lessons for distance learning) and found myself using three different computers! I was composing on a laptop while researching on both an iPad and my phone! I completed my Master’s almost a decade ago, and it would have been great to do that back then! I did do a lot more pencil work during that research, that’s for sure!

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