I recently read that writing by hand has all sorts of benefits for your brain, which is really no surprise. It seems to be in the news more lately since schools have begun dropping cursive from the curriculum. I have begun an experiment on this theory. I am writing book 2 of my Domina Lumen series using the dip pen and ink well you see in the photo. I’m on chapter 5 and so far, I like using the pen very much!
Abysmal Canyon, book 1, was written on my laptop and that was okay, but I was concerned about how many hours I was staring at a computer screen and the blessed distractions of the internet were a problem now and then. I also felt a disconnect – sort of like the difference between drawing with a pencil where you feel the vibrations of the lines being dragged across the paper compared to drawing in a computer graphics program where there’s no feeling except for clutching a mouse or electronic pen that “draws” on an electronic pad that “draws” on the screen.
I started this experiment with a regular ball point pen, but that didn’t feel special enough or worthy of the manual effort. I tried fancier, more expensive pens, but still no magic. So I went back to the Dark Ages (well, not quite -this isn’t a quill pen) and immediately felt a connection. I use the dip pen for drawing sometimes, so the artist in me was pleased and since book 2 is in a medieval world, I felt a sudden kinship with Ysolde, my protagonist, as if she were doing the writing by candle light in a thatch roofed cottage deep in the forest.
Handwriting, regardless of instrument, has it’s advantages. There’s a feeling of satisfaction when I get to the bottom of each page and add it manually to the slow growing pile. If I need to look back at something, I just pick up the page without having to scroll to look for it. I can lean on the table with one hand under my chin while I write. I can doodle when I’m thinking. I can immediately underline or circle words I know need more attention or make notes in the margins. I’m free to be messy and creative and maybe even a better writer.
Initially, I thought the ink would be a pain to manage, especially since I’m left-handed and major smearage (new word) was possible as my hand dragged along in the wet ink, BUT that hasn’t been the case. The ink dries so quickly I haven’t had any problems. I thought I would have to continually keep dipping the pen in the well, but no, amazingly, one good dip will last the entire page length! I get a peculiar calming effect from dipping the pen. It’s a very Zen – “Be Here Now” kind of feeling. The only negative I’ve found is the obvious – that I can’t just delete/backspace/retype over a section. But that hasn’t slowed me down. The pen flows quickly and will write as fast as I can scribble. I am more thoughtful about what I scratch out with the pen and just knowing that that sentence will still be there if I decide it wasn’t so bad after all is a comfort.
Despite my new attachment to the dip pen, I’m not a total convert. My laptop will have its day again and be very welcome. It is a phenomenal machine and a blessing compared to the clunky manual typewriter I had to use in college that always typed the “e” a little higher than the rest of the letters. When I finish this first draft, I may type it into the laptop to edit or I may edit by hand again then type it. I know I have many revisions ahead, regardless of whether the words are on paper or a memory stick. But it’s been a fun ride so far.
If you’re looking for a fresh new way to write, you might give the old way a try – just for kicks. You might actually like it!