6 Reasons Writing by Hand Makes You a Better Writer

Aspiring writer’s are often plagued by a multitude of problems. Taking a step back from the monitor in front of you and instead writing by hand for a while can have great results. And it can help to fight one of the biggest foils every writer will encounter:

We all know the inner critic. It’s this nasty, nagging voice in the back of our head telling us that what we wrote isn’t just right.

“Are you sure you spelled that word right?”

“Don’t you need to add a comma there?”

“My, this sentence sounds a bit awkward, doesn’t it?”

Those are just some of the many annoying comments this little voice would make. I’d, of course, trust them and go back to edit what I’d just written. This wouldn’t happen only once, but again and again and again. After an hour, I’d close my word processor in frustration and give up for the day.

That happened to me countless times when I first started out writing. I’d finish a few sentences, or maybe a paragraph only to go back to edit and rewrite it, often multiple times.

It was hard to say to the least, and I didn’t get anything done. At the time I was attending university. It was more by necessity than choice that I started to write on the go, by hand. Moreover, that’s also the time when I learned how to fight back against my inner critic.

It was by writing by hand.

Image of writing by hand.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Thinking back now, it’s almost unreal how much I struggled with the above problems. Back in the day though, those were serious issues, hindering me from getting anything done.

Here are six reasons how writing by hand can help you to overcome your inner critic and in turn become a better writer.

1. No Backspace or Delete Key

This might not sound like a big deal, but it’s huge. When you’re writing on a computer, you can delete words or whole sentences without any repercussion.

On a sheet of paper, you can’t. All you can do is cross out words or sentences and then write them again.

After doing this a few times, you will notice how ridiculous of an effort it is. You’ll start to wonder what you are doing when you stare at half a page of nothing but crossed out words. It will get frustrating.

2. Writing by Hand Takes More Time

This one ties directly into the first point. Typing out a paragraph on a computer is quick. Do the same by hand, and you’ll realize that it takes much more time?

When you write by hand, you will start to value your time much more. Most of us only have a few hours per day to spare on our writing endeavors, if that. Filling up a whole page by hand will take much longer than on a computer.

When you do nothing, but edit and rewrite things over and over again, you’ll come to realize that you are not doing it right.

3. You See the Work You’ve Done

This is of course not exclusive to writing by hand.

What I’m referring to is that you can see all the edits, crossed out words and sentences. When you see nothing but pages filled with crossed out words and sentences, you’ll start to realize that you’re not moving forward in your story. Instead, you’ll see how much time you waste over-editing and rewriting.

On the other hand, finishing up one or multiple pages by hand also shows you that you did some work. It’s a great feeling and quite motivating. I still have my old, filled up notebook around to this day.

4. Editing Becomes Visual

When you edit on a computer, you can delete what you don’t like and type it out again. On a sheet of paper that’s not possible.

If you listen to your inner critic too much, you will end up with pages of crossed out and rewritten sentences. At this point, you will start to wonder if any of this makes any sense. Is it really worth it to listen to this voice in the back of your mind, or should you wait and edit later?

There’s no better way to learn than to see what you’re doing wrong right in front of your eyes. When I saw nothing but an over-edited mess, I realized that what I was doing didn’t work.

5. You’re Not Bound to a Computer

A change of scenery can do wonders for a creative mind. Being stuck at the same place day after day while trying to change, makes things harder.

So when you fight your inner critic, changing things up is a great idea. All you need to write is a pen and a sheet of paper. You can write at a café, the library, a park, a bench, at the beach, hell almost anywhere you want.

Changes often correlate with one another. Moving to a different location, while trying new ways of writing, will help to ingrain those into your mind.

6. You Can Go Wild on the Page

On a computer screen, your writing is nicely formatted in printed letters.

When you write by hand though, you can do things a bit differently. There are no restrictions anymore.

Think about the novel House of Leaves for example. Some great editing choices made it quite a bit more interesting. On a sheet of paper, you can do the same thing. You can play around with elements of Metafiction.

The point is that trying out new things and experimenting can help us to think outside the box.

It’s another thing that helped me back in the day. Conformity breeds habit, in my case the habit of editing on the go and trying to make my writing perfect. By going against it and trying a variety of things on paper, I got more creative. I ultimately learned how to break free from the shackles of the inner critic.

Those are of course my personal experiences. If you, however, suffer from the same problems I outlined above, I urge you to give writing by hand a try.

Want to learn more about writing? Follow me here on Medium as I plan on publishing more articles about the craft in the future.

Interested in my fiction? Why not check out the following stories I wrote: The Room of Change, Robert’s Repairs or Not All Lighthouses are Built to Guide Ships.

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