Today’s quick writing tip is all about the relationship between writing and hand-eye coordination — or something like it. I recently read the fascinating book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, and in one chapter it makes the point that the physical tools we use to write actually change our style of writing. After using a typewriter for a few months, Edgar Allan Poe discovered that his sentences had become more terse and choppy, matching the hard, brief, declarative medium of pounding out words on a typewriter. Similarly, writing on a computer has changed our writing style; it encourages frequent switchbacks, dodging away to check email, returning, stopping and starting. It can discourage long, smooth, narrative flow. We can’t deny that the medium through which we tell stories has the power to change the stories themselves.
So this week, I encourage you to try switching up your usual writing medium. I often find myself turning away from the computer and writing by hand in a notebook when I need to write something seriously and thoughtfully. It enables a certain meditative quiet; it lets me pause, look up and out a window, and begin again; it lets me cross out bad writing, and still see it on the page for comparison; it lets me write slowly, planning my words more carefully. If we can type at the speed of thought, we will have less internal editing, less restraint and craft. So try slowing down a little, and filtering your writing through the limiting factor of a pen. Limits can often be liberating in creative writing. And there won’t be any alarms or beeps, links to check out or annoying twitter posts poking into your notebook!