Monday 25 March 2019

Writing by Hand and Creativity

by Enisa Haines

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When I first started writing, I wrote by hand. I was immersed fully in the stories, my imagination let loose, and the words flowed easily from my pen to each page. Sure, there was text I thought could have been better, but no part of me ever thought to criticise what I had written.

I grew older. The obligations of university, work and life crept in, stealing time away from writing. But the stories didn't leave. They niggled at me, pestering for release until I caved in. I was going to write again.

But writing by hand is slow. Typing is faster. So I typed...and a strange thing happened. It began when I first used a typewriter, got worse when I swapped the typewriter for a computer keyboard.

This voice in my head, the inner critic - also known as every writer's internal enemy - appeared. A whisper that soon became a roar. Criticism, ever present, always harsh:

"That word is too simplistic. The phrase sounds silly."
"That's not a grammatically correct sentence. The sentences don't flow into each other."
"Do you really think anyone will want to read this? It's nowhere near the standard of published authors."
"Why do you do this to yourself? You are so not good enough."

Youtuber, Blogger, Screenwriter
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I didn't like hearing that inner critic. I had to make it stay quiet. So it only followed that I had to write the perfect word, sentence, paragraph, chapter. The critic was silent then. But this way of writing, a vicious cycle of write, edit, write, edit, as I sought perfection, played havoc with my creativity. My stories did not progress.

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I was frustrated, living my own version of Groundhog Day, and then a breakthrough came. A writing course that promised to unlock creativity. Wow, the course sure lived up to its promise, showing me how. Get away from the keyboard, relax, pick up a pen and the words will come.

Authors JK RowlingAnna Campbell and George RR Martin each write by hand, I learned. If they could do it, well, I wrote that way once and I would try it again. The words came, slowly at first and then faster. My creativity was back, the inner critic gone.

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There, right there, was the answer I had searched for in freeing my creativity. Writing by hand. This technique allowed me to:
  • put a leash on my inner critic, taking away any power to interrupt or the right to criticise as I wrote
  • let go of the desire to look at words as I wrote them
  • stop feeling the need to change them if they didn't 'feel' right
  • relax, focus and be 'in the moment' and simply write down the words that rush forward, consuming my thoughts
Though it may not work for everyone, it works for me and my creative muse is all the happier for it.
Where before I struggled to get the words out, now with a pen in my hand my muse is ready and the words flow into a story. Not a perfect draft at first run, but one that lets the faults stay until later editing, and I'm all the happier for that.

How about you? Have you tried or gone back to writing by hand? 

I love to love that writing by hand silences my inner critic.

I love to laugh at Gogglebox. A truly amusing TV show.

I love to learn how other writers write.


  1. Hi Enisa! So happy that you've got that creativity of yours working for you again! I only write by hand when I come up with the odd bit of dialogue or when descriptions related to my story jump at me out of the blue and all I have with me is my notebook. But writing by hand obviously works for you, so keep at it. :)

  2. Hi Marilyn. I discovered when I write by hand that I just want to get the words out. No stopping to edit, which happens when i type and far too often. Writing by hand gets the stories written. That's the important part. Really happy that I write by hand again.

  3. Congratulations Enisa on finding what works for you. I think it might work for others too who might not have even thought about writing by hand. Maybe even if you are struggling with a certain scene try writing it by hand and you never know.

    1. Hi Cassandra. Those who write by hand say they do this in various ways. Write the full first draft. Write scenes they struggled with while typing. Working on the pre-writing stuff, like figuring out characters, setting. It's said that creativity floods the brain when you write by hand. I'm just happy it works for me.

  4. This is a wonderful idea Enisa! So many people swear by it. I also suggest buying a lovely pen, maybe even a fountain pen, but one that is special to you. Also a special notebook with lovely smooth paper. That way as soon as you pick up your pen you're in the groove. Anything that helps creativity is wonderful.

    1. Hi Malvina. I did buy a special notebook for the story I'm currently writing. Love the suggestion for a special pen. Will look into that now. Thank you.

  5. This is so interesting. Writing by hand is something I haven't tried when the critic starts doing its thing but I'll keep it up my sleeve for next time it does. Thanks Enisa and well done on finding a way through.
    Malvina, I'm with you on the special stationery. Any excuse to buy a new notebook or fountain pen!

    1. Hi Cathryn. Thanks for stopping by. After rediscovering writing by hand and seeing how truly effective it is on unlocking my creativity, I am all for it. And it really does halt the critic. I love that the most.

  6. Wow! So glad it’s working for you!
    Like Marilyn, I only write when I have thoughts but am not at my keyboard.
    Because my typing speed is way faster than I can write, my thoughts are on the screen really quickly and it propels me to the next line.
    Something I do sometimes is type the dialogue then go back to add the rest. Sometimes I need to get that rapid conversation between my characters down quickly as it happens!
    Good luck Enisa.
    So looking forward to being able to read your stories.

  7. Hi Alyssa. Rediscovering writing by hand was the best thing for me. I am so much happier being able to just write without giving power to the inner critic. The words are coming so much more easily.

  8. Hi Enisa, that’s fascinating. I’m really pleased you’ve found a way to unleash your creativity. It’s interesting how many authors prefer writing this way.

    1. Hi Sharon. Writing by hand really does release your creativity. When doing the course I did, I discovered that many Australian film writers wrote by hand and had also done the course and swear by it. So I'm not alone in saying it works.


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