Saturday, April 26, 2008

Writing by hand

I've been reading the excellent handwritten blog Can't Backspace and enjoying it but not imagining that I could ever hand write anything these days. Then in York the last few days I wasn't at my usual comfortable pc and I suddenly felt inspired to write a bit more of the story I'm working on. I had a notepad, I had a pen. We were on a steam train at the time ready to go for a little jaunt and I sat and wrote a few words while my husband hung out the window and took pictures.

It was so hard writing without the backspace key. I kept wanting to change things as I wrote and had to circle paragraphs and put arrows to where they should be. The sample below gives you an idea of what it looked like. The worst part is that it all seemed so clear at the time and now I'm having trouble reading parts of it. Oh dear.

I was chatting to one of the stewards at the Barley House, where they are recreating a medieval house bit by bit. He had quills with him and a horn for ink. He said that when he tells children that the ink was made of honey and soot they say, "What's soot?"

I remember using metal tipped pens that you had to dip in ink. The ink was usually lumpy and ran out after a few words. I can't imagine how I would have written a story, much less a novel, if I had to use those methods. The steward thought that people had better handwriting back in the day but I welcome technology: now however bad your spelling or your hand-eye co-ordination you can still produce writing that gets your ideas across. Surely that is the point?

I also remember when cut and paste involved scissors and glue but for inquiring minds out there: I did not use ink made of soot and honey when I was at school. I'm not that old.


Sylvia said...

This is so pretty! Oh, I'd love to see pages from everyone to see how they write - it's really interesting.

My boyfriend helped someone decipher post-cards from the turn of the century which they had found in a box in someone's attic. I can tell you that the writing was NOT neater, at all!

Neil Gaiman writes his novels longhand first, then his assistant types them up and he goes through them on the computer. That struck me as a really interesting system. I think the point is to keep him moving forward instead of over-editting.

fairyhedgehog said...

I would never have thought of it as pretty!

I'm interested that Neil Gaiman writes his first draft by hand. I pity his poor secretary unless his writing is a lot easier to read than mine is.

Having given handwriting a try, I don't think I could stick with it. The only time handwriting really appeals is for making a diagram, which I can't do on the pc.

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