The Power of the Pen: How Writing By Hand Can Generate New Ideas

Look at that.  I actually have an SEO conscious post title for once.  What a concept.

I live on computers.  Seriously.  From the time I sit down with my breakfast at 7:30 in the morning, all through the workday, and usually large chunks of the evening until I hit the hay at 10, I am at a computer (minus cooking time, commuting, and exercise).  I type like a demon and my handwriting blows, so most of what I do writing wise, at every stage, is done on a computer.  Grad school ruined whatever penmanship I had, so I very rarely write stuff down by hand.  I’ve got a writing journal where I record a lot of my thoughts and stuff about my writing journey, but that’s it.

This past week, I decided to unplug some and go old school, settling in with a brand new spiral notebook and a new set of Frixion pens to hammer out details of my plot for Red. It’s been a refreshing way to brainstorm.  Instead of necessarily focusing on answering the questions just right, I’ve done a lot of freewriting spew as things occur to me.  A lot of it is stream of consciousness, talking to myself (as Pot is not always at my beck and call), and the surprising thing is that I’ve generated a lot of great ideas.  I generated a lot of crappy ideas in there too, but still.  It’s got my brain flowing, considering, thinking about this plot.  I think we’re on the 4th incarnation of my outline for Red, and we’re nearly there, to the point where I’m ready to start sketching scenes.

Last night Pot hadn’t yet had a chance to look at that latest incarnation, so I decided to work on my plot problems with Devil’s Eye during my evening sprints with Claire.  I already told y’all that I’d concluded my villain was the problem in this story.  He’s flat.  He wants power but I don’t know why and it just wasn’t working for me.  I didn’t have a great deal of motivation as I sat down to work on it, so instead of opening any of my existing notes or blueprints, I just snagged a legal pad and one of  my new pens (purple, in case you wanted to know) and started scribbling.

And a funny thing happened in between my circling around the problem and repeated myself, going over and over what he could want from my heroine.  I figured out some alternatives to him wanting to steal her power.  Alternatives that require actual action rather than just investigation and minion fighting to get from the first plot point to the resolution.  I haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to go with either of these alternatives yet, but they certainly seem to fit better than what I have.  So I’m going to keep chewing on it.

Are you stuck on a computer all the time?  Are you stuck in your WIP?  Take a break, step away, and grab a pad and pen and start writing.  Notes, observations, questions, whatever.  I’m particularly fond of playing “What if?” and following these scenarios through in a logical manner.  However you work, breaking out of the norm and doing things differently is likely to have a positive result and just might jar you out of your stuck.

9 thoughts on “The Power of the Pen: How Writing By Hand Can Generate New Ideas

  1. I’ve never really thought of this. My hand hurts really bad when I write too much, and I absolutely love computers. But maybe doing something a little differently for just a little while might get the creative juices flowing.

    1. Yeah, right there with you. My hand cramps up when I write for long (thank you notes after our wedding nearly killed me!), but this has been a really good outlet for me lately.

  2. Great post. I usually mix it up – sometimes by hand, other times on the computer, but when I’m outlining, I always use pen and paper. I find I can generate better ideas when I can’t just push the delete button or easily surf the web. It creates a more intimate experience and this intimacy allows me the freedom to play. Plus, adding lots of fun arrows and circles around things makes it seem much more interesting 🙂

  3. I can’t write by hand anymore. Arthritis. But when I need a break from the pc I will print out a few pages and sit back in the hammock with a red pen, scribbling the odd note here or there.

    Sometimes seeing the draft in a new environment helps a lot.

  4. I second, third, fourth, whatever this! I never have half as many ideas or flowing scenes as when I’m writing with my favourite pen (Pilot G-Tec C4) and a notebook (paper doesn’t matter so much; I’ll write on anything from cocktail napkins to the back of my hand to bus transfers to…).
    Just can’t seem to draft on a computer for some reason. And it helps, cos when I go back to type all those handwritten scenes and ideas and notes, I get a round of editing thrown in!

  5. I have had ill luck with the freehand this year. I do keep a small notebook in my bag and and sometimes scribble notes when I’m inspired on the go, but I have that problem concentrating and remembering things that often while I’m writing out the first part of the idea, the second part evaporates before I can get to it. Need to learn some kind of method of just jotting down keywords first so I can remember what I sat down to write.

    I’m not always at your beck and call. Well, that just seems wrong. I will try to be better.

  6. Yup. *nods* I hardly ever do the pen/paper thing, but when I need to brainstorm something or start an outline/synopsis, that’s absolutely my favorite way to do it. Weird how things get all shaken loose just by using a pen for once. 🙂

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