Handwriting vs. Typing: The Great Debate
By Word Alive Press

We had originally posted this as a Facebook question, hoping to get a good dialogue going on the merits of typing versus handwriting, but it turns out our readers did not respond to the debate as passionately as we had hoped. We did find the question was food for thought in our own offices, however, and so we will be treating you to Jen’s reflections on the joys of typing, and Amy’s reflections on the art of handwriting.

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Reflections on Handwriting

by Amy Groening

I have been writing books since I was 10 years old. Admittedly, none of them have seen the light of day, but from the moment I picked up my pencil and scrawled the first line of my first manuscript (an adventure story starring my teddy bear, which, at a whopping 64 pages long, was quite a notable achievement for a budding preteen novelist), I knew that handwriting was the way to go. Handwriting affords the writer with options that typing simply does not—loops and curving lines are the lifeblood of creativity! In a notebook, you can write backwards, forwards, upside-down, diagonally, or in great spirals across the page. What better way to encourage your mind to look at your story in a new way? You can take up an entire page with a word poem in the shape of a dragon; you can break out the pencil crayons and illustrate characters that you’re having difficulty describing, and in the middle of that drawing, maybe you’ll find the key to the descriptive words you’ve been looking for.

This is not to say typing does not have a place. By all means, once your rough draft is complete, take that smudged, marked up, hand-scrawled mess of notebook pages and type it into clear, legible lines of print. But, think of all the possibilities even this affords you: the absolute necessity of closely reading your rough draft again; the possibility of misunderstanding your original sentences and coming up with even better syntax in the end. Whether you’re writing a novel or an autobiography, your manuscript is an organic piece of art, changing and transforming with every new read-through, each new draft.

I’m a sentimentalist at heart. Handwriting allows a great breadth for change, and yet, is concrete evidence of where your manuscript started from. After it’s been re-planned, re-written, re-re-written, edited, re-edited, and proofread, you can look back on that first messy draft of your story and admire how far you’ve come. And then, when you’re a world-famous writer, you can put it on display under glass and watch people come by to admire it.

Reflections on Typing

by Jen Jandavs-Hedlin

Sitting on the beach, waves crashing around you, the wind lifting and settling your hair, smelling the salt and the heat, scribbling passionately into your notebook… There is something incredibly romantic about the notion of handwriting a book. It feels organic and inspired. A creative endeavor in the truest sense of the expression. But let’s look at this scene for a moment; is it really an accurate depiction of how most of us write?

Writing is hard work. It takes concentration to craft focused sentences. I—for better or for worse—rewrite almost every sentence between when the words first come to mind and when I finish typing them. I constantly swap out words for their stronger cousins. I move sentences and paragraphs around before they are completed. Sometimes, three paragraphs in, I write the last sentence of a chapter, and then go back to fill in the rest.

I’ve heard the advice many times “don’t go back and edit your work until the manuscript is finished,” “keep moving forward, don’t look back” or even, “you will never finish writing if you revise as you go.” Strong statements like these chide me to change my habits. And yet, this is who I am as writer right now. I’m learning to embrace my chaotic writing style and work through my indecisiveness indecision. Perhaps one day I will move to a more linear style, but right now, this is how I work, and I think that’s alright.

So clearly, none of this would be possible without a computer. Give me my laptop, a latte, and a desk, and I will write (and rewrite) for hours. Give me a piece of lined paper and a pen, and I will cross out terms and write illegible scrawls above them. I will fill my page with circles and arrows that I cannot decipher later. Within an hour I will have abandoned a page full of smudges, and the dog and I will be MIA—likely already a mile away on a walk, taking time to clear my befuddled head.

About this Contributor:

Amy Groening is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She has an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She has a hand in many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cats committing random acts of feline crime.

Jen Jandavs-Hedlin has worked in the publishing industry for over a decade and is passionate about helping authors to share their stories. She enjoys cooking, reading, writing, and organizing her home into boxes and containers. Jen lives in Winnipeg with her husband, and their canine companion, Montgomery.

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