Thursday, December 10, 2015

This is fun!

This past week, I started sending out my Christmas cards. Yes, I do email a Christmas newsletter to many of our friends. But there are still those who prefer to receive that card containing a personal, handwritten note, along with a hard copy of our newsletter. As I began composing those little messages, I found myself thinking, ‘I’m enjoying this! I’m loving the feel of my hand moving across this card, filling up that white space and expressing what I want to say to these special friends. This is fun!’

Now why was this, I wondered. After all, it was no novelty for me to write something in longhand, because, for most of this year, I have kept a daily handwritten journal, as I have made my way through a particular book of reflections on Scripture. Besides, I scribble notes to myself all the time and leave them in strategic spots, so I won’t forget things!

In the end, I realised that, as I wrote those few personal greetings on each card, I was picturing those who would receive them and being extra careful about what I chose to write. My whole self was engaged in the task—body, mind, heart and spirit. My hand was moving across that white surface as I wrote. My mind was thinking of how best to express what I wanted to say. My heart was reaching out to these people, some of whom have undergone huge changes in their lives this year or are in difficult positions right now. And my spirit was searching and praying for the right words of comfort and hope from God for each one of them.

There is much debate on the internet about the benefits of writing by hand rather than using a computer. Some experts maintain that writing longhand employs a different set of skills from those used when typing and tends to activate that more creative side of our brain. Perhaps it is partly that the actual forming of those letters causes us to engage more with the words and concepts we write. Others highlight the many practical advantages in using a keyboard. Still others point out the distractions in doing so—that internet is never far away! But, in the end, is it obvious to those who read our books whether we have jotted down our initial thoughts on paper, perhaps even writing that whole first draft by hand, or whether we have headed straight for our keyboard?

Some years ago, I attended a week-long writing course where we were encouraged to write by hand. That week, my thoughts flowed ... and flowed ... and flowed. The whole experience was so fulfilling for me and the end result was several pages of handwritten story that eventually became the first chapter of my most recent novel, The Inheritance. However, I remember how others in that course were irked by the whole process and were not backward in criticising the presenter publicly.

We are all so different in how we approach our writing. What works for some might not work for others. But how about you? Have you found some benefit in hand writing those stories or poems you create first? Or does that feel like a waste of time to you?


Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.

9 comments:

  1. Thought-provoking post, Jo. I usually head straight to the computer if I'm writing a story or article. I think I'm so used to doing it, that it just comes naturally. But I always do poetry by hand first. I think the reason is that poetry is often something that comes more slowly. It has to be mulled over and there's always a lot of scribble, crossed-out words, insertions and arrows to move things around. I also find journalling and free-writing are better by hand.

    There are also practical reasons why I don't write by hand more. I have trouble holding a pen for long periods now (early signs of arthritis?). Plus my handwriting is pretty messy and I sometimes have trouble deciphering it when I go to type it up - LOL

    But it's a good idea to use it for those snatches of creativity. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Very relieved to hear that you have trouble with handwriting too Nola. I have big problems in writing legibly no matter how hard I try. Glad there are others like me! :)

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  2. Yes, I understand and relate to all you have said, Nola, only I don't have that trouble you have with my hands, which must make things difficult for you. But I DO have the same trouble as you in deciphering my own handwriting at times!

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  3. That was lovely Jo-Anne. So glad you enjoy writing. I have to confess to having problems writing - it's a big struggle for me - perhaps by writing too much when I was young - I'd write 30 page letters to my best friend who lived far away when growing up. And laterlong daily letters to my then fiance (now husband) when he lived overseas for 15 months.

    I find my creativity flows when I type (love the feel of the keyboard under my fingers) - but gets stifled when I use my hand - simply because writing has become a struggle and takes a lot of effort these days! Hooray for computer! :)

    But for those for whom their writing flows - I can well believe it would be something creative and wholesome! Thanks for sharing Jo.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Anusha. When I wrote my blog, I didn't even think of all those who might have difficulty with hands and fingers, so I have learnt a lot through the various comments about this. I have trouble with one finger on my right hand, but that's it so far. Perhaps all my piano playing, especially in my earlier years, has paid off?

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  4. Thanks for a great post Jo. I used to prefer handwriting and the first novel I wrote was on scraps of paper which I then wrote out in long hand, and a friend typed up for me. These days, typing flows for me and most of my creative work is typed. I like the way I can backtrack easily or move things around. I still carry a notebook though to scribble down ideas when not at the computer - and like Nola, I use pen and paper for the first draft of my poems - though I have been known to write them in the notes section of my smart phone too (when nothing else was around to jot down a flash of inspiration).

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    1. Thanks, Jeanette. All of my novels and my non-fiction were written straight onto my laptop--except for this one time during the course I mentioned in my blog when we were asked to write by hand and when what I wrote became the opening chapter of my most recent novel. It was just a different experience for me--and I wondered too if it tapped into how I felt years ago when I wrote so many letters home to family when we lived in another part of Australia. As I said though, we're all different.

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  5. I have always written first drafts by hand, simply because I can't type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. Could also be that I am a dinosaur. LOL I just like being able to scribble in books. Then the first rewrite happens on the computer when being transferred.

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  6. Nah ... you couldn't possibly be a dinosaur, Dale! Anyway, the way you write makes sense to me, with that first edit happening as you type up your handwritten version. Obviously you don't have the same trouble some of us do, however, of not being able to read your own writing!

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