Pens, Keyboards & Typewriters: How the Physicality of Creative Writing Affects the Psychological

When it comes to creative writing it matters how we write.

Most modern writers, it would seem, knock their drafts out tapping onto a computer keyboard, almost at the speed of thought. The improved keyboards of today’s machines make this experience nearly soundless. There is a swift conveyance of thought to screen that seems to be almost simultaneous for some. The convenience and speed of computer input makes it seem like a no-brainer. I do most of my writing this way. But writing hasn’t always been this way.

When I get stuck, I reach for my notebook. There is something about the process of putting ink on paper that changes the way we think. Some psychologists have suggested there might be a link between using two hands (a keyboard) and the one needed when writing longhand.

But that can’t be the whole story. There is a spatial element involved when writing by hand as well. I use pen writing most often when I’m working something out creatively, perhaps it’s a plot or a character arc. I often don’t just write straight across the page, line after line. I may write a note in the margin, and then I’ll draw a line from that connecting it to another thought on the other side of the page. There’s a kinetic energy to making work this way.

There have been times where I yearn to work on bigger and bigger pieces of paper. Someday, I plan to turn one whole wall of my study into a whiteboard so that I can map out my next labyrinthine novel plot. On second thought, perhaps I should turn the floor into one big rolling butcher sheet (paper is always better).

In Lee Rourke’s article in the Guardian on this subject, he quotes writer Alex Preston: “…watching the imprint of pen on page reminds us that writing is a craft. If everything is done on keyboards and fibre-optic wires, we may as well be writing shopping lists or investment reports.”1

Neil Gaiman has spoken publicly at length about his fondness for writing with a fountain pen (because, of course, Gaiman does). As he told the BBC, “I found myself enjoying writing more slowly and liked the way I had to think through sentences differently. I discovered I loved the fact that handwriting forces you to do a second draft, rather than just tidying up and deleting bits on a computer. I also discovered I enjoy the tactile buzz of the ritual involved in filling the pens with ink.”2

I also really like what Jon McGregor said (also from Lee Rourke’s article): “An idea or phrase can be grabbed and worked at while it’s fresh. Writing on the page stays on the page, with its scribbles and rewrites and long arrows suggesting a sentence or paragraph be moved, and can be looked over and reconsidered. Writing on the screen is far more ephemeral – a sentence deleted can’t be reconsidered.”1

Exactly! When we write creatively, the subconscious is telling us something. Even though those first words on the page may not be the best, they are important, critical even. Even if you’ve scratched through them, they still exist on paper, hinting at something else, some deeper force at work.

Other writers favor the pencil. And some still, the typewriter. Although I own a few manual typewriters (how they do warm the cockles of my heart), I’ve not really tried seriously writing on them. But poet and professor James Ragan once told me that he wrote all of his poems on the typewriter. There’s certainly a physicality involved with working on a manual typewriter that’s non-existent with a computer keyboard. You have to work at it. There is a physical exercise to getting something out of your head, with the body is engaged, that’s not really present in any other method of writing. Chiseling at a stone tablet, perhaps?

Different words and ideas are possible when you write in a college-ruled notebook versus writing on an unlined page, or on a napkin even. Are you writing with a gel ink pen or a ball point pen? All of these tangible factors affect how your hand moves, the energy of the stroke, the movement of the eye, the mood of the writer even.

I like to imagine the muscles in the hand directly connected by nerves to the brain, and at least some of those links are to the creative centers of the mind. By scratching the page, we jerk the strings of the imagination puppet, the strands that weave through our subconscious.

 

1 https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/03/creative-writing-better-pen-longhand

2 http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18071830

Readers Dig into New Sci-fi Chapter Book

Spit Mechs 2 has already received some wonderful reader reviews. It’s so terrific to hear how fans are enjoying the books. If you have a chance to add a review, it’s immensely appreciated (plus, it makes it easier for me to keep producing books like these in the future).

“My eight-year-old son … really jumped right in, and he does not seem to want to put it down.”

“My family really enjoys these books  … My girls (4 and 8) loved Curie so much. The spunkiness!”

“I highly recommend each of Corbett Buchly’s chapter books for the young reader in your life.”

Leave a review here (thereby earning my gratitude and adoration).

 

The Nakedness of the Non-Fiction Memoir

Although the biggest portion of what I read is fiction, I’ve been reading a few non-fiction books lately. I was struck with the idea of how well we get to know an author who’s writing about her personal life. There are so many details and nuances we experience in the reading that we would probably never encounter even if were close friends. Details about holiday traditions, internal dialogues, various mannerisms, mundane events and so on. I would have to think that authors that put these kind of memoirs out encounter fans that feel they know them, even though they’ve never met. It can be a very brave thing I think to write about your life in such a way, even if you still keep your biggest secrets locked away.

Art vs. Market

Today, I wrote the first 1,000 words of prose for my latest novel concept (adult literary). I have this idea to write this slow, pensive book with lots of dialogue and quite moments. There’s certainly a story arc and character development, but part of me worries that it’s not too terribly marketable. I read a lot of reviewers concerned with a book’s slow start. But then the other part of me, the artist side, knows I have to write what I have to write. If I write something that interests me, then somewhere out there is a market for it. And really, if the work  is strong enough, true enough, it has the potential to transcend expectations. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

What I’m Writing: Novels, Stories and Chapter Books

I thought it might be fun to update readers on what I’ve been working on. You’re probably already aware that I launched the second book in the Spit Mechs series this month (Spit Mechs 2). In December, I hope to launch the first in another chapter book series Squint & Rocket. If I get a reasonable response to these two books, I will most likely continue these two series in 2018.

But I also write adult fiction. Up to this point that has been almost exclusively fantasy and science-fiction, which of course, includes steampunk (greatest sub-genre ever?) I published a short story last year in the British sci-fi journal Singularity. (And have sent out dozens of other stories to other journals.) I have two separate steampunk novels that I have been sending out to prospective agents. Recently, I’ve developed the outlines for two separate novels. One is set in modern day southwest Texas and follows a young woman who, while navigating a sexist culture and a strained relationship with her father, makes a fantastic discovery that transports the story into something bordering fantasy. The second outline is for a full-out sci-fi novel that touches on themes of racism, conspiracy and competitive sports. Not yet satisfied with either, lately I have been pushing around an idea I have for a modern-day literary story with possible hints of magical realism that would focus on somewhat philosophical dialogue.

And I write the occasional poem too. Since there’s not a real monetary market for these, I’ve toyed with the idea of publishing those online (for free).

And that’s it, for now. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Spit Mechs 2 Launched

The second book in my children’s series launched today, ladies and gentlemen. At long last, SPIT MECHS 2: BAZ BALL is here for your reading enjoyment. I hope you and/or your child have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. If you like aliens, adventure and seeing fourth-graders get into galactic pickles (not literal galactic pickles, that would just be weird), this one’s for you.

Free Spit Mechs Short Story Ebook

I wanted to write a free Spit Mechs short story for several reasons.

First, it gave me a chance to really dive into one of my favorite characters in the Spit Mechs universe (Jane Pemberton).

Second, I thought with a shorter side story, I could create an experience that takes place on a smaller scale than the other Spit Mechs books. Without giving anything away, this story takes place within the kids’ school, so we can learn more about their regular school life. (Well, not too regular. They are Spit Mechs after all.)

And last, it was a way for me to show some gratitude to my Spit Mechs fans. So thanks, guys!

To get your free ebook – SPIT MECHS 1.5 – simply sign up for emails from the author (that’s me). Click the link “SIGN UP FOR LAUNCHES & OFFERS” to get started. I promise you won’t get spammed. You’ll only receive emails from me here and there, and only related to my books (launches and offers, like the link says).

Or you can click right here.

(Important note: Don’t confuse this free ebook SPIT MECHS 1.5 with SPIT MECHS 2 – which is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and launches on July 1, 2017.)