When Jack Kerouac wrote “On the Road,” he did it on telex paper so he didn’t have to stop writing long enough to replace the paper in his typewriter. This led Truman Capote to take a jab at Kerouac and say, “That’s not writing, it’s typing.”
Tuesday I was writing by hand, not typing. I sat in a coffee shop in Charleston, South Carolina and wrote longhand until my right hand cramped so badly I was forced to stop. What I have is 10 rough pages of a new chapter in my book.
We lose something when we’re not writing longhand. Writing is a sensory experience. I love nothing more than the feeling of my pen scratching on the paper, the sight of ink on my fingertips, and actually feeling the words flow out of me in script that is somewhat illegible, yet beautiful.
When I am stuck, or feel as if I’m not making progress, I write longhand. There are times I don’t want to touch my keyboard. Plenty of other times, I’ve been distracted by the glowing beacon of connectivity to the outside world on my laptop, otherwise known as the internet.
You see, my greatest downfall, at times, is being allowed internet connectivity. For all intents and purposes, I’m an introvert, and the internet was made for people like me to be able to truly communicate without feeling overwhelmed. However, it’s easy when I feel stuck, to get online and waste hours, when I should be taking a walk to clear my head, or get rid of some energy.
Believe me, the cycle is vicious.
All of this is why I didn’t take my laptop to Charleston and only carried notebooks and pens. While my hand might have cramped to the point I needed my husband to massage it, I was insanely productive. There were no distractions. It was just me, my notebook, pen and the smells and sounds of the espresso machine offering up a steady stream of legally addictive stimulants to the masses.
While it wasn’t a smoky cafe in Paris, it is a setting seen so many times throughout history. Writers hunched over a small notebook, scribbling away, drink forgotten on the table. It is symbolic. Literary inspiration, or gasoline.
But, when we boil it all down, the distractions and flirting around with our work, or, horror of horrors, not writing, what we really have is a serious lack of self-discipline. If you’re a lazy writer, nothing will ever come of your career, because while you may say you’re a writer, if you’re not putting words down in some shape or form, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Of course, we all go through things like writer’s block and creative slumps, but that’s okay. When I have found myself in those situations, I do things to keep my writing anything. Mainly lists of things I want to do around the house, followed by trying to check those items off said list. Personally, it helps to get out of my head and do manual labor of some kind. If I’m really stuck, I’ve waged a war with dust bunnies where I wind up with immaculate floors.
What I am really trying to say is, the notebook and pen are good for me. They allow me to be free from distraction and to get back to the core of writing as my predecessors have done for centuries. And if that doesn’t work, I invite you all to come watch me battle the dust bunnies.