Why I No Longer Handwrite

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

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In the last say seven years, and especially since I started using the iPhone and iPad, I haven’t handwritten more than a few pages of writing. In many ways, I probably could be losing my handwriting skills, or at least the patience to write using pen and paper.

I’ve read studies which report that hand writing notes is better for memory than typing. But that’s not the case for me. I write articles, blog posts, emails, and notes on a daily basis. And because I grew up during the time when there were no computers, and only electronic typewriters, I had to handwrite and then type college papers, as well as class and reading notes. I would easily fill up spiral-bound notebooks with copious notes and quotes for various projects. In my office closet, there is a box of 17 paper notebooks that I filled up over the years for journal writing. I’m no stranger to pen and paper, but the day I purchased and started using a large a clunky Brothers word processing computer, that set me off on the road to paperless writing.

For me, paper notebooks are not practical. I used to also keep stenographic notebooks for jotting ideas and lesson plans. But it was always difficult to go back and find particular pieces of notes that I wrote in those notebooks. As the years went by, those notebooks remained archived in a file drawer. Unless I bookmarked pages, finding specific notes was like searching through a garbage dump.

Digital Apps I Use

In this regard, digital apps has made writing and keeping notes a hundred times easier. I use several digital word processors, including Scrivener for longform manuscripts, Day One for journal writing, and several Mac and iOS note apps, including Letterspace, Vesper, OmniOutliner Pro, Evernote, and Drafts. Each of these apps provide quick access to typing, and I can easily manage and locate content using tags and searches.

With digital apps, I’m no longer waisting paper, and my notebooks are with me everywhere I go. I can easily edit my writing, copy and paste content, and even voice dictate words as I’m partially doing now.

While handwriting will always be more personal, it has dozens of disadvantages that make me not too concerned with losing my handwriting abilities. I predict that in the years to come, more and more people will be using voice dictation on digital devices, which in many ways makes for more accurate writing than typing, especially when using applications like Dragon Dictate, which never misspells words, though it does misunderstand dictated words.

Perhaps if I were still in school, I might take handwritten notes, but even in that case I would use Livescribe to digitally process my handwritten notes. I just don’t see the practical use of handwriting anymore, when typing is more efficient.

Reflections on the Writing Process: Part 1

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Ohhh…the challenges of writing.  Most people dread it. Many of us had poor grade school experiences of English teachers demolishing our work with countless red ink error corrections and question marks all over the papers we stayed up late writing the night before. We dreaded subjects we had to write about and the revisions we had to make—the entire process was like cleaning a messy room. The pain and arduous process of good writing is what makes simple cell phone text messaging and 140-character Twitter posts so much easier.

So why is writing so hard? Well, partly because it’s not as natural as talking. The old adage that says, write like you talk is not quite valid. Good writing is not always like we talk. We don’t talk in complete sentences. We constantly correct ourselves. We utter our thoughts. And if just can’t articulate we what we’re thinking, we can always say, “You know.”

Why Good Writing Is Hard

Good, coherent writing  is not like talking. Writing is a process. It’s messy. It’s uncertain. It doesn’t add up like 2+2=4, even though there are grammar and spelling rules. Writing is somewhere between an art and a math equation, and that’s what makes it hard. There are rules that we can apply to make our writing good, but writing requires a sense of style and timing that makes writing interesting.

As a writer, my skills have grown over the years, simply because I write nearly everyday—not just for myself, but for readers. It’s one thing to keep a personal diary or blog in which you can choose not to focus on communicating your thoughts but to use writing to document your experiences and what’s on your mind. When you write for readers, it’s different challenge. You want your writing to be read. You’re trying to communicate information to others in way that makes that information easy to understand.

If you’re a fiction writer (which I‘m not), you’re trying to both entertain your readers and draw them into your fictionalized world. If you’re a serious fiction writer, you know your readers won’t waist their time with a poorly written story.

When a reader reads a book or even an article, he or she is entering into a contract with the writer. The reader is agreeing to give over his/her time to read what the author has to say. The reader expects the author to make to make the time and experience of reading worthwhile. By the same token, the author wants the full attention of the reader.

That’s the challenge of writing is to make topics interesting, comprehensive, accessible, and rewarding for readers.

The process of producing good writing is what I will cover in part 2 of this topic.

(Photo acknowledgement: Dave )

Writing Tools I Can’t Do Without

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I recently wrote about the difficulties of blog writing using for the iPad, describing how almost impossible it is to produce a significant quantity of writing using the device.

But beyond the iPad, as a full-time a writer I have found that there are some essential tools that I absolutely could not do without when I’m working at my computer. First off, I‘m one of those writers who grew up doing the age of electric typewriters. Oh the horror of that time compared to now.

Though today’s young generation takes it for granted, the computer itself is a tool that would be very difficult for me to write without. I don’t think I’ve handwritten a page of text in the last ten years. I never look back on those bygone years of handwritten drafts, paper notebooks and the old Smith-Corona typerwriters. In fact I wish they had never existed. The computer is my savior.

So now for the other computer related tools that help me get jobs done:

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Can You Blog On the iPad?

Note: this is a piece I wrote back in June that first appeared on AppleMatters.com.

Can you blog on the iPad? The quick and honest answer is, no. Not as effectively as you might like.

A few weeks ago I traveled to visit my mom, and while doing so I realized the limitations of the iPad for writing and blogging. Though the original intent of the iPad was never to be a laptop replacement, one would think it could be used as a productive writing tool.

While it’s expected that you can’t edit movies or create Garageband songs on the device, the inclusion of Apple‘s word processing program, Pages for the iPad, gives the impression that writing can effectively be done on the device. But again, that’s not quite the case.

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