The Curse of the Keyboard.

Today rounds out the last day of my personal little writer’s mini-workshop, on account of having three days in a row off from my regular, paying occupation. Everyone gave me incredibly great well-wishes of productivity, which makes me feel a little bad about having to report that, unless today is different, the productivity has been strictly focus on cleaning my apartment. Despite the lack of page and word counts, though, I’ve been able to do some thinking and I’ve managed to once again confirm something that I’ve always kind of known:

I am horrible at writing on a computer.

There. I said it. It’s out there; now that everyone knows my weakness, I can strive to ensure that it cannot be used against me. It’s interesting, because I see a lot of authors admitting that they actually only write on the computer, that the notebook and pen is a strange mystery to them that suggests an archaic time of too much work and the unnecessary destruction of natural resources. And I’m left shaking my head, because writing in a notebook is the only way I can write something new.

You see, with so many projects, I took a break from writing Battarack Girls long hand; I had a few pages written down, typed them up, and resolved to compose the rest of it on the computer to save time and separate it for the other stuff I was trying to write in my notebooks. It worked…for a few days, but then it just became really tedious, I felt incredibly disconnected with the work, and I realized that this approach was useless. I’ve tried it before, and it always ends with me losing the voice and the spirit of the original idea. Typing something up from something already written, that’s another story, but I absolutely cannot create fiction at a keyboard (unless it’s just a little flash or something, but even then, I often write it in a notebook first).

It’s a conundrum and a phenomenon I’ve thought about an awful lot. My writing has always been inextricably done in notebooks. The computer was for games and fun when I was growing up, while I could whisk a notebook up to my room or outside to scribble down stories. I kept two notebooks on my desk throughout high school and college: one for jotting notes, and the other for writing stories when the lectures got particularly boring. I have literal stacks of notebooks in my library, some of them full, others waiting in anticipation for the stories I will tell.

And then there’s just the physical act of writing. In pushing the pen across the page, depositing ink in a patterned form that is recognized as language, you create an undeniable connection with that word. I’m the type of person who writes everything down, to better remember it. The very act of writing instantly binds me to that word in one way or another. As much as I glow over my high words-per-minute count and how my slender, graceful fingers seem to be dancing when I create words with my keyboard, it cannot possibly hold a candle to that feeling of taking a blank page and covering it with ink, littering it with tales of your own design.

So here’s to the pen, the paper, the notebooks. Here’s to knowing I had a good day because my hands are covered in black smudges and lines. Here’s the the writers who tell their stories best when they crack open something that smells as beautiful as a new book, untouched paper, to the writers who don’t realize that their incomprehensible appreciation for trees is probably rooted in some subconscious guilt for destroying so many of them. Here’s to those suffering from the Curse of the Keyboard, and the beautiful things that transpire because of it.


  1. I thought it was just me! I hate composing new work on a computer as well. I write first draft out by hand and then type out second drafts on my manual typewriter before finishing the revision on my computer. Each way (longhand, typewriter and computer) have a completely different feel and work in different ways.

    • Absolutely! And I never really see it as much work, either, because I’m editing as I’m typing up what I’ve already written, so the transcribing serves a second function as well. It’s totally effective.

  2. Ah, another pen and ink and paper writer! Yay! I always thought it was due to my age, but as you reminded me the other day, you are just a young whippersnapper, so it can’t be that solely,

    I think it is the deeper interplay of brain and nerves and muscles, the sensory part that you describe so well. However, I always found that things I wrote resonated differently. For example, I took copious notes in classes. Even though I hardly ever re-read them, the act of sifting them through blood, muscles, and nerves internalized them in a way that typing them would not have done.

    I raise my cup of tea to those fellow sufferers!

    • LOL, everyone I work with is younger than me, so I revel in the chances to be a whippersnapper around here! And you’re right about the notes; something about the act of writing them helps cement them in. I’ve always found that a little fascinating.

      Hear, hear! I am definitely going to go make myself a pot of tea now.

  3. I have a few of those notebooks of yours here in your bin of stuff…. may be next time you are home I can dig them out for you. I write longhand and on the computer, but stories develop better for me when I write them out on paper. Glad you had some days off… miss you and love you

  4. I used to write in notebooks first, and I still have unused notebooks that I am intending to use for upcoming novels. But ever since I bought my laptop I find that with the last few short stories I did the first draft on the laptop instead of the paper notebook. I think I prefered the notebook due to freedom to write where ever I was, but now the laptop offers me the same freedom without having to try and read my handwritting and struggle with my terrible spelling when transposing the first draft. Or maybe it’s just short stories, as I did do the first draft of my current WIP in a notebook, then moved it onto my laptop, and now I’m working it over on my home computer. Most likely I’m just gonna continue to do every book differently because every book is different. I’ll write the next one on a manual typewritter, or in hieroglyphics or on a Steampunk typewriter that writes in hieroglyphics (while wearing a brown bowler hat).

    • I have so many empty notebooks and I will continue to collect them, too…especially since I’ll fill a lot of them, as well. I like the “every book is different” approach, too, though I don’t think it would work for me. I know I went through a phase in high school where everything had to be done on a typewriter, and not even the Steampunk variety.

      And I’ve decided that, should we ever cross paths, Cantankerous Mitigation, we are going hat shopping.

  5. I feel a similar way. The retyping portion of the process hurts my head though. Have you thought about getting one of those pens that digitizes as you write? I’m going to get one and try it as soon as I have the extra money.

    • I’m not sure I’d dig one of the digitalized pens, either, though. Something about the ink on paper, I think….I don’t know. They’ll have to pry a ball point out of my cold, dead fingers one day, I’ll bet.

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