Monday, January 12, 2009

A Kiss Before Typing


Lately— before attempting to really, really write— I kiss pen to paper instead of bringing out the keyboard. Like this weekend, when I wrote a letter to my next book...

Okay, let's talk. You and me, God in the Yard. I left you around chapter 5. Mind you, I didn't really leave you... I've just been sorting through the outdoor journal, playing the piano and flute, drinking tea out in the snow and listening to the wind. Did you know that the wind has a sound?

It is the sound of touch and tussle— not the wind's voice but the movement, sighs, whispers, cries of its lovers as it brushes by... the hemlocks, pine, maples, the neighbor's back door swinging her hips...making that saucy 'bang, bang' noise, open shut open shut, you can have me no you can't.

So I haven't really left you. I've just. I'm. I'm like that neighbor's door— open shut open shut. My mind all alive and everything as you pass by, flapping and rising, falling, filling, stilling at the thought of you. I haven't left. I'm just waiting for you to find me, rush me, plaster my senses to the back fence, corner me 'til I blab.

Now to my tea, indoors. To read my notes and to write something, anything...

After I played around writing that in my journal, I was able to approach my manuscript afresh, with less anxiety. It was a good day. Anyway, as I see it, here are the benefits of writing in longhand before sitting down to type, whether we're crafting a book manuscript or a blog post...

- the mind opens up in a whole different way, maybe because, as Richard Restak observes, writing by hand stimulates the brain more than typing (or at least differently than typing)
- longhand has a sense of flow and an unfinished quality that helps us play
- similarly, composed type looks so finished that we get prematurely serious; we're think we're finished, when what we really need is a good edit

Benefits aside though... who wouldn't enjoy a little kiss before typing?

If you try writing a letter to an inanimate object or a person (I know, in some cases these might seem one and the same), let me know and I'll link to you. For instance, I could see Linda following up on her Blog-it-From-a-Photo project by writing a letter to her saddle shoes or her father (or both! but maybe not at the same time).

The Kiss photo by L.L. Barkat.

Katrina's Dear... (Note: the letter to the Cheez-Its is not to be missed.)
Erica's Letter to My Unfinished Novel
Laura's Sheltering In
Lynet's Letters
Sarah's Dearest, Darling Novel

Ann's Pain to Poetry
Unknown Contributor's Grandmother
Jennifer's Poetry of Facebook
Kim's For My Friend
LL's Holding, in 'Hungry for Sabbath' post
Erica's Work of His Hand
Joelle's Speak Nothing

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Blogger Erin said...

My poetry notebooks from years ago (lifetimes ago?) are written completely in long-hand. All in cursive. Something about the loopiness of the letters allowed my heart and mind to flow onto the page more fluidly than typing or printing, which is my preferred handwriting style.

They're also written in pen, not pencil. Again, it's the fluidity factor.

Love that image of the saucy female door with her on-again, off-again passions! Creativity is so like that. I often think I'm going to explode if the world doesn't stop so I can get this thought out.
And if I miss the moment, the wind often just dies away (or changes direction) and things go still inside.

At first I was disappointed to realize that my lover-wind could go and leave me so easily, but really, have you ever seen those windswept landscapes? All the trees lean the same way, every one of them flagged by the ever-constant winds. Few things can grow well in persistent wind too, so even the species of flora and fauna represent just a handful of the variety God has created.

It's relieving to think about how some things, tender and beautifully delicate things, grow best when there is no wind stirring them up. Seeds settle. Pods open. Dew drops pool and refresh tiny roots. Sun warms open leaves.
Life lingers in places where the wind in still.

I love the creative wind, but I think I'm ok with the still times too. Maybe it gives me more seeds to spread on the wind when it blows again the next time.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

These days hand-written notes or letters of any sort (aside, perhaps, from scraps of thoughts on post-it pads) seem an endangered species. Somewhere in my keepsake boxes I have copies of letters I received from home while I summered in the Dominican Republic. My replies were also hand-written, complete with cartoon illustrations and misspellings and stream-of-consciousness musings. I remember how much love I poured into them, knowing that it may be a while between exchanges and that I wanted to share something of what I was experiencing there. What remains now from that time are badly-faded fragments of rolls of thermal fax paper that, once upon a time, I cherished and anticipated and traveled to town so eagerly to receive.

I also have kept stacks of cards and letters from people I have known, dear to me not only because the words carry emotion and memory, but because the hand is unique and ties me to the writer - imperfect and expressive - in a way that type simply cannot.

While I am not inclined to write letters to objects, animate or inanimate, I hope I never lose sight of the beauty and power of the pen, in some ways never matched or eclipsed by the seemingly infinite reach and possibility of mechanical communication.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love to write in my journal. With Erin I agree - the fluidity factor - I usually write in cursive. Sometimes I write in print - letters standing up straight, at attention. A journal is something I can easily carry with me to jot down the thoughts, pictures, doodles that float through my mind. It's rather hard to draw on the keyboard. Although I write in pencil, it gives me the opportunity to erase and redefine or clarify my thoughts. Maybe it is the forgiveness factor of a pencil. The ability to start over again.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I still journal longhand. And I must, Must, MUST take notes longhand if I'm going to remember anything at all. There's something about having to organize the thoughts on the paper by myself that helps me remember.

I love how you talk about the thought was "Of course the wind has a sound!" Though the Santa Ana winds blowing here today are far from friendly...

Maybe I'll write a letter to my novel...maybe that will help me figure out what's wrong with it...

3:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

So beautiful, friend, this image of the wind passing over her lovers! Yes! You give word to those things that my mind struggles to name.

As for this writing thing: I certainly talk to enough inanimate objects throughout my day, perhaps a more formal conversation would be more effective?

A letter.


4:17 PM  
Blogger Stonefox said...

Laura, I've been working on the photo challenge. But I must say I'm just not doing it justice. I'm not a photographer, but the picture I had in my head was too good to pass up! It was based on the name of your blog and had your book as the backdrop and a hand cupped with a few large seeds in the palm. I even tried using my baby's hands to get the dimensions right, but it just wasn't turning out well.

7:26 PM  
Blogger RissaRoo said...

Once again you hit the nail on the head. I think we do tend to look at type-written work differently than when we write by hand, there is such an intimacy between pen and paper that just doesn't transfer in type. I type so much faster than I write, though...I like to hand write my outlines for novels, and sometimes a chapter breakdown. Somehow this helps me picture it in my mind better, and the organization and re-organization of ideas flows much more smoothly with pen in hand. Filling it in happens better at the keyboard, but then I like to print out my work and edit again with pen on paper. I catch many things I'd otherwise miss and mark the whole thing up with arrows, lines, and funny markings. I guess somehow the 'art' comes out a little more if I can make my mark with writing tool and see the ink moving across the page.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your book!!!!!! I have seen it on a lot of blogs...will be adding it to my list of books to read.
Peace and Blessings...

12:48 AM  
Blogger Billy Coffey said...

I've often heard that writing in longhand is better creatively, but I just can't seem to get the knack for it. My brain moves much faster than my pen.

Then again, maybe slowing down is what it's all about...(?)

10:12 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Beautifully done, LL!

4:37 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Erin... yes, I think the smoothness of the movement frees the mind somehow. And your picture of the creative process is so lovely... to remember that few things grow well in persistent wind... I like that.

Nikki... I have turned your thoughts over in my mind... the idea that somehow the writing contains the person. In a way that type does not. Flesh made word, on the page. Ah... sweet thought.

Mom2Six... doodling. I don't really do that much, but I always find it so interesting to look at what others do in the margins! :)

Sarah... I have been thinking about your letter to your novel. I hope you write it.

Laura... that amused me so! You, talking to inanimate objects. Any favorites? And so funny the way you expressed that a letter might be just the thing.

Stonefox... whatever you do I will love. But if you don't, I'll still love that you wanted to.

Erica... definitely faster to type. And sometimes I just do things that way, but lately I've noticed how much more creative I tend to be with unexpected images when I take the time to use pen and paper first. Maybe not compose that way, but at least dream.

Hope42Day... God in the Yard is still in process... so I'm thinking you mean Stone Crossings. (It'll be easier to get hold of ; -) And thanks for your enthusiasm.

Billy... i LOVED that quick footnote at the end of your thought. Maybe it IS the slowing that changes things. Gives time for surprises to leak through.

Craver.. aw, shucks. :)

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura - What an inspiring post about not writing. Except that you write it so beautifully. Relaxed, even.
I keep a handwritten journal, and a blog. The handwritten one tends to get more personal and raw. Obviously.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Joelle said...

Oh, the wind tonight surely has a sound--a scream and a whistle, desperately trying to find its way in. Windy as only eastern MT can be windy. Will listen awhile, then perhaps put pen to its moans, try to articulate what it wants to say. Thanks for sharing the realities of the writing life--some days still as a doldrum, others wild, words tumbling, rushing like that wind....

8:47 PM  
Blogger Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I so related to this.

My husband does all his drafts longhand. I do sometimes, especially if it's something I'm struggling with emotionally.

And I too have written letters to books and letters to characters.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Been awhile since I wrote a letter, and rarely write these days. But interesting thoughts here. I particularly like thinking about the sound of the wind. I'm assuming that sound is made from the wind hitting elements on and near the earth, but kind of just wondering on that.

But my writing is poor, out of practice. I used to be considered to have fairly good penmanship as they called it, but not so now! The kiss is a good thing though, and then proceed. Maybe I'll have to try that!

4:57 AM  
Blogger Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

This comparison (pen vs. keyboard) has long fascinated me. I tend to prefer typing, mostly because I type so much faster than I write, but also because my handwriting is pretty atrocious. But there are times when I *need* to touch pen to paper -- and yes, I think it's because it frees up my mind in a different way. And maybe also because it forces me to slow down my thoughts... Thus, the laptop is always out, but there are countless journals and notebooks scattered throughout the house!

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's one way to deal with writer's block. Not that you have writer's block, mind you.

Like Ted, I don't send many letters these days. I usually send my troublesome projects an email or a direct message on Twitter.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Jim Martin said...

I like what you say regarding the "handwritten." For example, I have always written, by hand, in my journal (as opposed to doing something on my computer.) On the other hand, most of my manuscripts of various kinds are done on my computer.

I always appreciate your writing. Thanks,

3:30 PM  
Blogger sojourner said...

Cheers to "A Kiss Before Typing!" And....I like your idea of writing a letter to an inanimate object :0)

4:31 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Bradley... that made me smile. Writing, about not writing. It's a start anyway, yes? :)

Joelle... I'd love to hear what the wind had to say out there. Let me know if you decipher it.

Ruth... that's an interesting point about the emotion aspect of handwriting. Makes sense that we might work out the more difficult things that way.

Ted... the wind, yes. I never paid attention to it much until I started doing my outdoor practice. It was a revelation to consider where the noise issues from.

Katrina... sometimes I just like to write and try to make it beautiful. There's an odd pleasure in that. Hey, I loved your letters to both animate and inanimate objects!!

Marcus... I hear that suggestion that I might have writer's block. Well. At least I'm writing letters to my book. :)

Jim... thanks for the encouraging words.

Sojourner... let me know if you write a letter, so I can link to it. Did you see Katrina's? Fun, fun.

5:13 PM  
Blogger RissaRoo said...

Ok, L.L....I did it. I wrote a letter to my poor, long neglected novel! And I figured some things out about myself in the process. Thank you for your honesty and for the way you encourage us to venture a little out of our comfort zone!

10:40 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I wrote it ;) I'm just not so sure I'm going to post it...but the writing was the important thing, I think. Thanks, LL!

11:07 AM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Thanks for this post - it helped tremendously to read it, for here is what I would write in my journal today, if I journaled as you do, "I feel like I'm buried in snow - so cold my heart doesn't even beat and afraid that I won't wake up - hiding in case there is more cold outside - hiding from more pain - even typing causes pain - maybe she's right - maybe if I write it will only use my right hand - maybe that will work and I will work even though I'm hiding from the cold and the office - hiding from an uncertain future"

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did mean Stone Crossings :) And I started keeping a pad of paper in my car so when I take a lunch break at work I can write...very enjoyable and a wonderful way to energize myself for the reminder of whatever faces me at my job.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Here's my little offering!

I had so much fun doing this. Thanks for the challenge!


10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of slowing down...

When we slow down everything from our schedules to our writing, we can see more clearly, experience life more profoundly, and perhaps gain the inspiration and confidence we need to say/write something fresh and clear.

Your poetic encouragement will have us all pulling out journals and pens,

then pausing,

taking in the sounds, smell, sights,

and then...


kissing the paper (smooch).

11:47 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Even though it makes sense, I was not aware of the fact that writing in cursive stimulates the mind.

I have been writing in notebooks for some years and never really knew why.

I never considered myself a writer but I guess all the notebook writing makes me think of myself more as a writer.

1:09 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Mine's up! And thanks for the High Calling feature...very cool.

11:26 AM  

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