Putting pen (or pencil) to paper

Do you ever write with a pen and paper?  Hmm?  Or are you forever hunched over the computer keyboard like most writers these days? If you only ever write at a computer keyboard, I think you might be missing out.  Stay with me for a few moments all you tweeters.

I wrote a guest piece for our students’ new online newsletter Symmetry recently on the topic of creativity and how it can be leveraged in fields other than the traditional “creatives.”  Some people think that writing creative pieces needs to be done by putting pen to paper – literally.

Ever since I discovered her work in the late 1980’s, I have considered Natalie Goldberg to be one of my major writing teachers.  I’ve never met Natalie Goldberg.  My writing is not one bit like Natalie Goldberg’s writing.  But her early books on writing practice, most notably Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, were my signposts along the journey toward finding my own voice as a writer.  And although I’m seriously dedicated to writing while hunched over a keyboard, Natalie’s approach to teaching writing has often given me pause to consider if there is a difference in the extent to which we  might be able to mine our creativity when inputting words to a computer versus letting them flow onto paper through our writing hand.

Natalie’s approach to writing is that it is a ‘practice,’ and that by practicing, we improve our writing.  We don’t have to publish everything we write.  Writing is often for ourselves only.  (To tell you the truth, I often read material that I wish the writer had kept to him or herself!)

I’ve talked about Nataile’s timed writing approach in previous posts, but her ideas bear further reflection.  She tells us to just “go!” and “keep your hand moving!”  That’s where the pen and paper thing comes in—you can’t do this kind of practice with a computer.

She also tells us to “lose control.”  This is easier said than done, but I believe that this is how we mine our personal creativity. As writers, we put pen to paper and if we’re able to lose control and keep the writing hand moving, interesting ideas just seem to flow.

Lee Rourke wrote a terrific piece in The Guardian’s book blog recently.  In it he refers to longhand writing as a “secretive pleasure.”  He says he “can sit in a corner of a café unnoticed and write to my heart’s content. I’m less conspicuous than the iBook brigade, cluttering up London coffee houses and pubs with their flashy technologies.”

Of course, my personal obsession with writing journals is related to the notion of putting pen to paper.  Sometimes it’s just nice to sit in a comfortable chair and think.  Then pick up that journal and just write.  Okay, I will admit that these days I often pick up my IPad and do this, but to tell you the truth, it’s not the same.  I highly recommend a good dose of the Natalie Goldberg approach to writing practice – with that pen firmly planted on a piece of paper that (preferably) is contained in a beautiful notebook.

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