April 16th, 2012
This essay is the first piece of writing I’ve done by hand, start to finish, since 5th grade, 1992. I drafted it using a Uniball Signo pen and black notebook while sitting at my desk. I edited it in the same way. When it came time to enter the essay into the computer so that it could appear on this website, I typed it in almost exactly as I’d put it down on paper.
Overall I think there’s greater variance in the quality of the writing I produce by hand. The good stuff I write is cleaner, more honest, less stylized, more well-considered. The bad stuff is more obvious, more ponderous, more self-involved, maybe weirder. In fact, this is definitely one of the weirdest pieces I’ve ever written. Writing on the computer drives my writing towards some average value — I think/write/delete/think/write until I have something that’s decent but maybe less vibrant than the ideas as they were conceived in my head.
What annoyed me is not so much the fact that this guy has rediscovered writing in with pen and paper, but the unconscious elitism behind it. Reading between the lines you can see the idea being pushed that writing longhand is more natural and simpler than writing on a computer, but in fact more people find it easier to use a pc to write: just look at the explosion of writing on the internet.
In contrast, writing in longhand is hard work physically cramps your hand, is less easy to edit, less easy to share, in short less accessible for most people. It’s no wonder most people didn’t bother with it after school until the computer and internet came along and made it easy to share your thoughts. This democratisation of writing is a good thing and I hate to see some hipster quest for authenticity endanger it.