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Writing by hand vs. writing digitally

A writing trick I use is alternating input devices, or platforms, if you will. Most of you sane people will write on your computing device of choice, like a laptop or iPad. Me, I do that too, but I alternate, at most, between four different devices. The idea is to trick the brain, and I’ve had some success with it in the past. Right now, well, let’s get back to that later.

I currently write on my iPad, my MacBook, and by hand in notebooks. I used to write on phones as well, but honestly, there’s not enough time to even get a solid output on the first three currently, so I’m not going to pretend that’s a thing at the moment.

Writing on an iPad and a laptop is very similar. It’s the same app (Ulysses, in my case) and you rely on a proper keyboard. So, no, I don’t write on my iPad using a touchscreen keyboard, that’s just horrible in the long run. I connect a proper keyboard, a better one than the one on my MacBook, so the iPad is my preferred device. This should surprise exactly no one, I’m writing and editing a site called Switch to iPad, after all.

What’s getting the most raised eyebrows, however, is my writing by hand. I don’t use a digital device for that at all, despite great iPad apps and the Apple Pencil. I use a notebook and a nice pen, and that’s about it.

Pros writing by hand:

  • It’s different, so you’re starting out reinvigorated, not tired by screens or utilizing a keyboard. Or, in plain words: You can do it, despite being fed up with your computer.
  • It feels real, the tip of the pen going over actual paper, it’s tangible. You know you’re creating something that can sit in a drawer, in a bookshelf, or whatever — it actually exists, no matter what.
  • When you type it up on your computer, which you will, you’re essentially rewriting your work. It’s a mix between a new draft, and editing, that I’ve found helpful.

Cons writing by hand:

  • It hurts, and it does so before you’re done with your writing session, messing up your (most likely) pretty shitty handwriting to begin with.
  • There’s no editing this version, it’s always retyping it. That can be good, but also stressful, a chore you know is coming.
  • When speed is of the essence, writing by hand won’t cut it in comparison.
  • Oh, and you can actually misplace your notebook. All is gone, thank you very much, good night.

My experience writing by hand is mostly positive. I still do it, as Twitter followers probably have noticed, but when things get stressed, it’s less ideal. Case in point: I’m writing a fairy tale where the first draft has been living in a notebook from the beginning. The thing is, I want, and need, to finish it before the end of March, and my life is pretty stressful right now. I might find an hour or two to write, but I can’t do that when writing by hand, it’s just too painful. I’ll get there, again — been there — but right now, no. 30-40 minutes, that’s about it, then I need a break, and that’s not jiving with my deadline, if you know what I mean.

On the flip side, the only time I’ve managed to have two serious writing projects progressing at a healthy pace, is when I’ve combined writing by hand with writing digitally. It works, or has worked at least, for me. The circumstances need to be a bit different, though.

I still urge writers to give writing by hand a go. Just don’t do it when you’re on a tight deadline, is what I’m saying.

"The TDH notebook in a window sill"

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