Saturday, June 27, 2009

Writers Are Creatures Of Habit

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for putting up with the writing tangent that this blog decided to explore for the month of June. Believe it or not, when I created this blog back in May '08, one of the topics I wanted to explore was writing. A good portion of that year was spent exploring the various writing issues as they pertained to myself.

Some where in the fall of '08, I did drift away from that particular tangent and went off on other interesting issues (like music and work, both of which I will get back to again in the coming weeks). But since mid-May, I decided to concentrate a little more on writing, and as you saw for the month, I think I did that pretty well. A few book reviews, some exploration of how I write, what I write and why I write what I write, were some of the topics that peppered the landscape this month.

I would like to close out this month of focusing on writing, by talking a little bit about how writers are creatures of habit. Through out the month of June, I was able to gain some valuable insight on how writers tick, courtesy of both the writers who commented on my blog and from the blogs themselves. A lot of it was downright fascinating, if not completely original. And with some of it, I was surprised to see a little of it in me.


We're all creatures of habit when it comes to writing. Some of us can write multiple things at the same time. Some of us prefer to work on one project at a time. Some of us can only write with peace and quiet. Others have the ability to tune out the chaos and write when the shit literally hits the fan.

With me, I do share some of those traits, and yet I also have a few that I don't share (at least to my knowledge) with anyone else.

F'r instance: Like most people, I do need peace and quiet to write; I love being able to work on multiple projects at the same time (to whit, two blogs and three stories going at the same time); I'm very uncomfortable at having people look over my shoulder when I write; I do care about what I write for public consumption; and finally, I've learned the value of patience when it comes to explaining why I began writing in the first place.

The one trait that I do have, that I haven't really seen elsewhere, except maybe for Joanne at Whole Latte Life, is that I write out about 95% of my stuff by hand first, before sticking it on a Word document.There are a myriad of reasons why, and I would like to share a few of them with you.

1} It's easy. I know that most of you find value of doing on the laptop, no matter how big or how small (a nod to both David Cranmer and Jewel from Pink Ink in explaining the preference for a mini-notebook), but I find it's much easier to grab a notebook and a pen, and go off on a walk or a drive, to one my many favorite places to write.

2} Concentration. I don't know about you, but I find it's much easier to concentrate when I'm handwriting versus doing it all on a computer. On a computer, its ridiculously easy to go off on a tangent, only to discover what you wrote doesn't quite fit with the rest of the story or forget to save something that you spent an hour writing (which I've done numerous times. one of my more infamous moments came when I was writing my first book. I wrote three pages worth of a scene, only to forget to save it at the end. Presto, no document). Handwriting forces you to pay attention to what you write. The new story I started is exclusively handwritten, so I find it necessary (and enjoyable), going back to what I previously wrote, in order to have what I'm about to write make sense.

3} Necessity. This one is a little depressing to explain. For those of you who may or may not know, I was diagnosed in January 2008 with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It's a neuro-muscular disease that is progressive and has no known cure. God in his infinite wisdom has decided to have this insidious disease take hold of my hands and eventually turn them into useless appendages. For the most part, it has been a downward cycle of grief. I won't go into the minute detail on how this has F'd up my life, but I will say that I now find it easier to write with a pen (after modifying my grip and holding it like a five year old) than to write with a laptop. While my handwriting has dwindled down to simply being able to sign my name, my printing has actually gotten clearer and better. I do know that using voice recognition software is in the future for me, but until then, I will keep writing my stuff out, be it short stories or blog post ideas, by hand.

4} New topics to explore. Now I don't know about you, but with pen and paper, I somehow transform into someone whose writing is a little more adventurous. Before, when I used to sit down in front of my computer and write, the writing somehow didn't seem "right". Like it was being forced or something. But now, I when I sit with pen in hand and paper on lap, things just go better. I seem to be able to explore particular topics that before I wouldn't even give the time of day previously (i.e. drug abuse as it's portrayed in my short story Syringe, or performance art as it's portrayed in my story Audio Dynamyte).

So, to sum it up, handwriting my stories is my preference of choice and my one hidden trait. I enjoy writing things out by hand, because I find that is truly the one way that I can really dig deep into myself and bring out the very best in me and my writing.


  1. I didn't know about your condition. Hope it is a slowwwwww progression.

    I have some friends who created some speech recognition software for use on itunes, explorer and other computer functions (not word processing) if interested. Free right now.

    All the best...b

  2. Oh it's been slow alright. I may have been diagnosed in Jan '08, but it was playing havoc with me for about several years prior.

    For the most part, I've kept it under wraps and only told my closest friends/co-workers, mostly because I don't want to use it as a crutch/excuse for not doing something. It's only been very recently (like this year) that I've been more open about it.

    Still, I won't use it as a crutch, but instead, I use it as a reason to why I do what I do. No more and no less.

    As for voice recognition software, that is something for the future. Right now, I will enjoy my stubborness in not using it until it gets to that point where I need it, then I will joyfully embrace it.

    Thanks for the tip though. I will keep it in mind.

  3. I now Wayne Allen Sallee has tried voice recognition software. Not sure what he has thought about it. He's listed on my blog roll.

    I do write by hand at times, but only when a computer isn't handy. I far prefer to type because my handwriting is so atrocious. Plus, I've just gotten in such a habit that it's easier for me to write on the computer than by hand.

  4. Oh G - I am sorry to hear about that. But it sounds as if you are not allowing it to stop you in any way.

    I don't know why - but I just write better when I type in a program. When I went back to school I was forced to do essay questions by handwriting them and found it difficult, because I always wanted to go back and edit. But they turned out OK anyway.

  5. Charles: I do know that was one of the things that one of my therapists brought up to me last year when I saw the neurologist for a six month follow up, and that was one of the things I was going to bring up yesterday when I had to unexpectedly cancel out (more on that later). I also know that my job will spring for it if I can prove its a medical necessity, which in this day and age of mounting red ink is almost an impossible to hill to climb.

    In any event, I got really hooked into handwriting my stuff about the same time I started up this blog, mostly because it was an easy way to do it at work and not get caught.

    And yes, my handwriting was and still is atrocious.

    Lynn: Nope, not letting it get to me. When I finally found that I couldn't hold a pen with a normal grip anymore, I spent the better part of an hour at work practicing different grips and signing my name until I found one that works. Thus, I hold a pen like a five year old, except I tuck my pinky under so I'm gripping it with three fingers and a thumb.

    I still do quite a bit of keyboarding, if only because 1) work necessitates it and 2) it helps keep what little manual dexterity I still possess, functioning.

  6. It's so true...habit and the ease of a familiar routine. I would handwrite more of short stories, novels, etc, but nerve damage prevents it. My Dragonspeak has been a godsend for those days when the pain is just too much. I still, however, longhand write my poetry. It's a real connection with pen in hand and paper at the ready. When you do get a VR system, you're in for a few laughs and a major adjustment in the whole creative process...but it is also very enlightening. I know there was one famous author who dictated his books and I used to think that would be impossible to do, but like most things, it's about making necessary adjustments that make day-to-day life easier.

    And I left a Kreativ Blogger award for you on my blog, G. I enjoy your blog very much.

  7. Right now, my writing is about fifty percent handwritten-then-transposed-to-laptop and fifty percent split between strictly laptop for blog posts and laptop for writing.

    One of the long stories I'm currently rewriting, I'm doing strictly on the computer, simply because I printed out the original and I want to try to write it strictly on the computer to see how long it will take me to rewrite and how much attention to detail I give it.

    Depending on how that one goes will determine how I do my next couple of rewrites.

    The one new original long story that I'm currently doing, I'm doing it entirely by hand. We'll see how this expirement goes too.

    As for the Kreativ Blogger award, I thank you very much for it. I will try to find a way to work it into my blog in the coming weeks.

  8. I know how you feel about being someone more adventurous with that pen in your hand. We can go outside ourselves.

    Wonderful June month on writing! And looking forward to July. (And beyond, of course.

  9. Jannie: Yes indeedy doody. I find that simply by listening to the people I interact with, or don't interact with but simply glide on by, I get great ideas for topics to write about.

    And thanks for the compliment. I wanted to get back to the topic of writing for awhile now, simply because I felt I was drifting pretty far away from it, which was one of the original purposes of this blog: to explore what I write and to pick other people's brains on what and how they write.

  10. If I'm seriously working on something, I have to write it by hand because I pace when I'm trying to think!

  11. Makes sense.

    Like I said, handwriting (or printing as the current case may be), is the best that I can do right now. The hand fatigue isn't as bad using a pen as it is using a computer.

    I do find myself doing a lot more in-depth thinking when I use pen and paper as opposed to using the 'puter.

  12. Thanks.

    Just another example of what makes me tick as a person.

  13. Wow, you still transribe hand-
    Very interesting...
    What I do in my notebooks, rarely gets typed in unless it's for a project already begun to add to. I try to do the most typed to begin with, to avoid so many strikeout n scribble overs- tho alot used to be done that way.
    Poems in habd are exception also, if about to be used.

    I handwrite less lately, due to a cramping hand byproduct from the job- likw to save the energy for drawing n guitar.
    Of course, I've a reg keyboard- laptop would cramp up hands too-

    I think the longer you practice the hands, the better they will cooperate (opinion of Dr Snag) cause I get pins n needles plus arthritis in the cold. Try heat on the hands to increase circulation before keying-
    For some reason unknown- I feel more privacy in writing on paper.
    (N more uninhibited)

  14. Snaggletooth: A very thoughtful comment, which in deserves a thoughtful response.

    I very rarely start any of my short stories on the laptop anymore. The main problem is, unless I sit there and get it done in one shot, the story will languish for weeks/months on end. This past weekend, I'd comepleted a short story that I started about several months ago, simply because 1) I wrote myself into a corner, and 2) I started the thing on my laptop, and it quickly became out of sight out of mind.

    I would agree about practicing with the hands. I try to keyboard as much as I can, so as to keep what little dexterity that I got, got. Right now, I have a bunch of dead spots (nerve damage) in about five or six fingers, so it does make writing, either with pen or computer, an adventure. I usually try to keep my hands warm, because I find that if the temp drops below 60, the hand function less.

    And in regards to the privacy issue, that is definitely true. I find that I'm very uninhabited when it comes to writing on paper and alone. Even when I'm on the back deck banging away on the computer, if someone happens to take a seat on the deck nearby, somehow I just tense up and stop what I'm doing.

  15. Great post here. Yes I think we are creatures of habit, it's easier to fit the writing in that way, too, with habit and routine. Another thing I like about handwriting is plain old note taking - no matter where I am I always have a notebook to write something I see, hear, any idea, that can be developed further later on.

  16. Absolutely. The best part the spring and summer, is that I'll take my notebook with me on my walks and go to a few faves were I can get some decent inspiration for my writing.

  17. Lately, I've been writing poems in a steno notebook. I find it easier to write them this way. More freeing.

  18. Sounds cool.

    And with a steno pad, it can go anywhere that you do. No muss, no fuss.

  19. I prefer my laptop - I think this stems down to my university days when I wrote everything by hand - and as a perfectionist I would rewrite things over and over again so there wasn't a spelling mistake or grammatical error - which as you can imagine was very tedious. Now I enjoy being able to create and correct my work at the touch of a button. It gives me a lot satisfaction to see a neatly written piece of work rather than all my scribbles. I did start writing my novel by hand - and then I tried the computer which I'd never really used before - and it opened up a whole new world; not just in the amount of work I could produce but in many other ways too:)

    I like peace and quiet too. Don't get enough of it though:)

  20. I'm a mixture of both right now. In order to give my hands as much rest as possible, I switch back and forth between pen and laptop.

    Whereas laptop makes it easier for you to write, paper and pen will, like you eloquently stated, make you go off the deep end.

    And for me, it makes me concentrate further. It forces me to plot out what I want to say before I say it.


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