Why I Write by Hand

I am a big proponent of physically writing words on paper with a pen but I cannot hide from you that I haven’t always been. There was a time, for about two years, that I wrote a lot on my iPod. It was almost always handy and I enjoyed the flexibility of just carrying my iPod. I was able to write down reminders, notes, and scraps of poetry. Eventually, however, I was urged by multiple external forces and the internal force of sentimentality to buy a notebook. I am now the proud owner of a green faux leather notebook with unlined pages and too many bookmarks.

I can tell you a few things that I love about writing in a notebook.

  1. Hopefully, one day, someone I love can find my notebook, run their fingers over the penned poems and scrambled markings, marvel at the fact that my hand was in the very place theirs is now. Needless to say, this is the sentimentality that drove me to the bookshop for the book. I still believe, however, that it is not a ridiculous sentiment. I hope to leave behind me, in this technological age, more than used memory in a device. I hope I can impart something physical to my ancestors.
  2. Words are not nearly as easy to get rid of in my notebook. Once I pen those words in, they remain. I may mark over them, but then the markings tell me that I was ashamed of the words, or I found better ones, or they were unnecessary. Whatever the case may be, the legacy of the words is infinite.
    1. Computer geeks will tell me that anything I write online is never truly gone, and I would agree. They are however much harder to find and their trail is easily erased. If I delete a word on my iPod, I will never again know what it was.
  3. Creativity is much simpler on a piece of blank paper. From a purely poetic point of view, my scope is much wider. I can make my poem look like I want it to look much easier. I can space my words without the red underlining marring the page. From a more artistic perspective, I like to think that everything on the page surrounding my poem is part of the poem. If I had to pause in the middle of the line to scribble while I thought, that was part of the process. That is missed without the blank page.
  4. Joan Didion says of her notebook-keeping habits, “Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course, but exactly what was it I wanted to remember? How much of it actually happened? Did any of it?” I write also to remember. And more than just the words, I want to remember the whole situation and the way I write the words is important to that. What color pen is it? Blue, black, purple? Is it sideways, messy or neat? Big, small, scrawled? Tear stained or shaky? This is something only I can know but it is something I want to know.

I am not endowed with enough authority to tell you that writing by hand is the only way to do it – but I can tell you that I have loved it and cannot imagine doing it another way.


2 thoughts on “Why I Write by Hand

  1. I’ve heard good things about it, too;) In fact I wrote mostly by hand for a good 25-30 years of my life. Unfortunately, I have terribly spastic handwriting and I always have. I have a hard time reading my own writing sometimes! Oh dear. Despite the ease I find in having people be able to read what I write with typing, I definitely think its good to keep the balance of handwriting certain things for many reasons.


  2. Rand Carpenter

    Thanks, Reidy! I like what you said about everything being part of the poem. I’ve often thought the same thing about prayer—everything that’s going on around me, in my head, in our lives, in the fellowship hall, on our retreat, is part of the prayer.


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