The day before my husband and oldest son went on a caribou hunt, I bought a vacuum sealer from a second hand store. It did not work. Annoyed, I returned it, and my annoyance was compounded by the fact that I could only return it for in store credit, and that credit had to be used immediately. (This was after being told at the time of purchase that yes, of course I could return the item, and nothing more was said. I feel like something more should have been said.)
In the midst of my discontented wanderings through the store, I came across a most beautiful thing- a vintage turquoise Smith-Corona portable typewriter. Of course, it was irrevocably broken, as all things in this shop seem to be. But still, it was fun to plink away on and I’m sorry I didn’t buy it. It would have been just lovely on my book case and I could have spent many happy hours tinkering with it in the vague hope that I could resurrect it and name it Lazarus, but my husband would have caught me trying to sneak it in the house and given me that look and really, I don’t have any room on the book cases anyway. Alas. (In other news, I need more book cases. And a bigger house.)
But just touching that typewriter made me feel suddenly more creative, and I hustled home (with a bunch of new books I’m not sure where to put and some curtains I’ll never use, curse you, vacuum sealer) and knocked out another chapter in the Copper book I posted a chapter from last month (read here!).
The typewriter got me thinking. Some writing methods work better for me than others. And some that work for me might not work for as well for other writers. So I thought it might be fun to spend some time writing using several different recording methods and see if any patterns emerged. I came up with several styles of writing that I wanted to try, and went forth, hoping that a victor would emerge in each of these categories: best for brainstorming; best for drafting; best for editing. Each of the following writing methods was ranked according to these categories. Read on for my own personal results!
Method: Longhand, cursive
I know so many people who draft in longhand. (Sadly, I don’t know anybody who still uses shorthand to write anything more than short notes, and I was too lazy to learn stenography for this.) I don’t normally draft in longhand so it was fun to give it a try.
Pros: very good for inspiring creativity; excellent for working out outlines of books and individual scenes; very accessible;
Cons: difficult for later editing; in nearly all cases, must be transcribed to a digital format for sharing;
Method: Longhand, print
Everyone I know who uses longhand for writing does it exclusively in cursive. So I though, ‘Huh! What’s wrong with print?’ And once I start asking questions, I gotta find answers. All in the name of science. Sort of.
Pros: actually somewhat better WPM than cursive (Ms. Hardman lied to me); accessible;
Cons: doesn’t feel quite as inspiring as cursive; same cons as cursive;
Method: Typing, computer
This is my workhorse. A solid ninety percent, maybe more, of my writing uses this method.
Pros: very quick WPM; easy to keep files together and organized; easy to share materials with others;
Cons: computer isn’t always accessible; I am so very, very bad at technology; screens make my eyeballs sad; inspirationally meh;
Method: Typing, mechanical typewriter
Wow it took me half of forever to scrounge one up to type on. I’d never used one this old before and I was a little afraid to touch it, haha. It didn’t type very well, but honestly, the thing is like a hundred years old and I’m really impressed it worked at all.
Pros: mega super fun; creatively inspiring; that little ding at the end of the line; general coolness; that typing sound- something about the clickety-clack of a typewriter just feels all inspired and literary;
Cons: SO HARD TO FIND; keys jammed when typing too fast; had to push the keys really deep to get the typebars up to the page; machine was old and I didn’t know how to change the ribbon (let alone where to get one); difficult to edit;
Method: Typing, electronic typewriter
I actually managed to scrounge up not one, but two of these- each of them in dusty storage rooms of increasingly underfunded libraries. Go figure.
Pros: halfway between an old typewriter and a computer for coolness and inspiration; able to keep up with my typing speed;
Cons: relatively obscure- difficult to procure, and doubtless difficult to keep in repair; difficult to edit;
Method: Audio Recording
This method started out at a steep disadvantage, largely because I hate the sound of my voice. Not enough that I’d consider ever shutting up, but still. (It really didn’t help that I’ve been sick and sniffly for the entire duration of this experiment.)
Pros: can be done relatively hands free once you hit record; thoughts can be recorded quickly; very accessible if you have a phone that takes recordings; assuming recording was on a phone, sharing is very easy;
Cons: Very self-conscious of doing character voices; self-conscious of my just normal human voice; how does editing even happen like this; must be transcribed into another format for editing and sharing; while it worked well for taking notes, it was TERRIBLE for doing actual prose or, even worse, dialog;
There are many, many ways to record stories out there. And while I was tempted to bust out some clay tablets or carve on some tree bark, I by no means exhausted the possibilities. These are just the methods that I thought a decent percent of people might actually regularly use. (Maybe not the typewriters these days. That was more for fun.)
But anyway, here is some data because data is delicious.
|Longhand, cursive||48; 54||25.5||Easy||Medium||Difficult||****|
|Longhand, print||51; 57||27||Easy||Medium||Difficult||***|
|Typing, digital||142; 150||73||Easy||Easy||Easy||***|
|Typing, electronic typewriter||82; 83; 79; 77; 77;||78.8||Difficult||Medium||Difficult||****|
|Typing, mechanical typewriter||Didn’t record||Slooow||WHYYY||Medium||Difficult||*****|
|Audio recording||373 in 4 min||93.25||Easy||Difficult||Easy||*|
So the results are in and I think we have our winners! For brainstorming, I definitely did best with longhand cursive. For drafting, digital typing (on my laptop) was hands down the winner, as it was for editing. Typing on a computer isn’t the most inspiring way for me to write, but it is the quickest and the easiest, and it’s way easier to edit and share than its counterparts.
But that’s just me! Seriously guys, this was great fun running this experiment. You should consider doing it yourselves. Just spend a few hours working away using each method and see if any patterns emerge. You never know when you might stumble across your next big breakthrough on putting out your best work.
Until next week, happy writing!
(PS- Warning: in a couple more weeks, I’ll be skipping the country again and I’ve slated about a month of not putting up blog posts, depending on how quickly I recover, etc. But I promise I’ll bring you back some cool pictures and new sample settings. More details to come.)