Putting Pen To Paper

I come today with a statistic:

You will write a novel 50% faster using a computer, but will be 85% more likely to finish if you write longhand.

Here’s another one:

42% of statistics are invented.

Regardless of the evidence behind a statistic, their real beauty is in making us think. Do I actually write faster with a computer? Should I be considering writing longhand?

It turns out that I am far from the first to have these questions. I found a case study examining how people’s writing environment affects the way they write (via Livia Blackburne).

Participants were asked to write two reports, one on the computer, and one with pen and paper. They were given the same amount of time and preparation for each; all that changed was their writing implements.

The study observed that those writing on a computer took half the time and wrote 20% more. However, their writing style was more fragmented, with frequent pauses mid-sentence. Those writing with pen and paper would only pause between sentences or paragraphs, however their pauses were longer.

More interestingly (for me), revision methods differed between typers and writers: those using a computer made 80% of their revisions in the first draft, whereas the pen-pushers only made 50%.

If you write with pen and paper, you’ll spend less time fussing over the first draft and just get on with it.

Yes, you’ll have to do more revision later on. But coming from someone who’s struggling to get a first draft finished, the old tools of the trade are starting to look oh-so-appealing.

Who knew that the infernal inner editor I’ve mentioned before could be put off so easily? You can’t easily move paragraphs around on a piece of paper, and the inner editor is far too lazy to get involved.

What are you waiting for? Let’s put pen to paper.

6 thoughts on “Putting Pen To Paper

  1. I find if I am struggling with a scene, pen to paper is the best way to get through it. By the same token, my best brain storming and planning is done pen to paper as well. That said, if I leave it too long I can’t even read my own handwriting, and my wrist can get really sore if I do it too much. So, computer most of the time for me!
    Enjoy going old school :-) I love nothing more than ‘investing’ in nice pens and paper for that purpose!

    • Oh really?? I like nice pens but cannot use nice paper for the life of me… I feel bad about “ruining” it with my scrawl and it makes me feel anxious about getting it right. I’m all about disposable cheap notepads!

      • I was more meaning pretty notebooks and stuff! The quality of the paper is irrelevant to me ;-) I can’t buy expensive stuff for the same reason as you, but there are lots of really nice looking cheap notebooks

    • I do the same thing! When I run into a wall, sometimes I just have to do it the ink-on-dead-trees way, whether that means getting some old fashioned notebook paper (and feeling like I’m back in school lol!) and writing from nothing or printing out what I have and picking up a red pen. I don’t know what it is, maybe using different muscles or a different part of the brain, but the change can really kickstart the creative process.
      And I actually find it goes the other way too. When I write Draft 1 by hand, I never just type it in verbatum. As I type it up, I’m making changes, expanding, and editing it quite a bit, so Draft 2 – or the first draft on my computer – ends up being a HUGE leap forward.
      That being said, I also like being mobile, so sadly I can’t always bring pages and pages of paper and pens everywhere with me :-( But I still love writing by hand when I can!

  2. Pingback: My Top 9 Writing Posts | A.M. Harte

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