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Handwriting or Computer?

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I have a pet peeve.

“Real writing happens with a pen and paper.”

I’ve heard this quite a bit from many different people and it makes me a little crazy.

I hate writing by hand, it cramps, my hand writing is sloppy (and degenerates over time) and it feels like a chore.  When I’m writing on my laptop I love the sound, the feeling (I imagine I’m playing a piano and the words are music), and the fact that I can write faster for longer before my carpel tunnel kicks in.

So what it is about hand writing that makes people claim it is the true path to writing artfully?

First let’s look at some pop-science.  Psychology Today tells us that learning cursive writing (specifically cursive) is best for your brain and development.  It also helps with development and communication of thoughts and ideas in kids.

Some writers swear by it and science seems to support it, but is that to suggest that it is the only way to go?  That real writing only happens when you write by hand?

At the end of the day, it’s a preference.  If I had to write by hand I would probably spend more time being annoyed about it than I would be actually writing, so I wouldn’t get much done.  Although there seem to be some cognitive benefits to the practice (which make me think I ought to give it a try more often than I do), I find it frustrating to hear people suggest that it is the path to ‘real’ writing.

There are many different ways to grow as a writer and I would definitely not want to deny one of them out of peevishness, so I won’t.  Writing by hand is good for your brain.  It leads to better motor functioning, clarity of thought and it is a good exercise for young and old.

As we progress into the digital age, I reckon hand writing will fall by the wayside but it’s likely, given our constant ‘evolution‘, we will find other things that are beneficial to work our brains not to mention the fact that we will keep finding our way back to the oldies-but-goodies.

So do I think that ‘real’ writing only happens with a pen and paper?  Nope.  I think real writing is whatever is real to you and whether you want to use the computer or go the old fashioned route, all things can lead to greatness.  Your writing is your own and it doesn’t matter how you get your words out, just as long as you do it and love it!

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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The Booth at the End

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Ben and I watch quite a bit of TV and we struggle to find well-written shows.  Writing is so important it can really make or break a series.  As people who make videos/films ourselves, we take a particular interest in well-written TV (or in this case web TV) and there are a couple shows I love so much I think they bear mentioning here.

The Booth at the End is one of those (rare) awesome and extremely well written shows.

It is a two season (so far) web series created by Chris Kubasik (an outstanding writer who has also written other fantastic things including several RPGs – holy crap we want to play with him) and I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s one of my favourite shows of all time.  I’ve been thinking about it for awhile now and I am not sure I have seen anything better written in all my show-watching days.

The Booth at the End takes place entirely in a booth in a diner and revolves around the stories of multiple people who want things.  The premise is wonderfully simple, yet extraordinarily complex.  Because the whole show is entirely focused on conversations between ‘The Man’ (the person who essentially grants wishes to people who perform seemingly random tasks) and the people who desire things, it allows for a wonderfully intimate, psychologically intense story.

I also posit that this conversational storytelling style format allows for a fascinating psychological effect.  I recently read an article about the effects of reading fiction on the brain.  It indicates that the effect of reading stimulates the same parts of the brain that would activate as if you were doing the thing you were reading about.  For example, reading words related to smell would activate the olfactory cortex.  So essentially, if you read it, your brain thinks you’re doing it or at least responds as though you were.

So I believe there is a similar effect at play here, due to the fact that The Booth at the End is based entirely on characters telling stories.  Now I don’t have the ability to scientifically test this theory, but (if not actually activating the areas of the brain related to the stories being told) we are at the very least invited, through this format, to use our imaginations.  With this show we’re not being spoon fed images, we’re being forced to think and imagine and filter the stories through our own brains.

The Booth at the End is deeply moving, makes us question and allows us a space to think through our own choices and their consequences.  And for a web series, that’s pretty impressive.

As a writer, I have only a handful of writers I am completely impressed by and Chris Kubasik is definitely one of them.  If I can come even remotely close to the quality of writing in The Booth at the End at some point in my career, I will have created something amazing.

So here’s to you Chris.  You’ve made an outstanding piece of art and I hope you keep making it.  I’m dying to know what happens next and that’s not something I can say about very many things.

And to all of you out there who haven’t watched The Booth at the End.  Do so now.

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Plumb Your Depths

I have issues.

Don’t we all?

I have strong feelings on things and scary thoughts and prejudices and experiences that date back almost thirty years now.  The more I write the more patterns begin to emerge in my writing that suggest themes I’m interested in and issues that draw me.

Sometimes I want to write a story that ventures into uncharted territory for me.  Thoughts that have lingered in the back of my mind for my whole life, but I’ve never paid much attention to.  Drawing them out into the open by putting them in a story can be freaky.

Each time I write something I know it reveals a bit about my inner self.  Like I mentioned in my Inner Darkness post, what’s being revealed isn’t always sunshine and lollipops.  I used to think that all of this was bad and wrong.  I wanted to keep my inner thoughts on the inside because if I let them out the world would know what a horrible person I am.  That I’m flawed, biased and harsh.  Turns out I don’t believe all that though.  I believe I am human and writing allows me to dig into that humanity and pull out all the guck and wonder.  In a short period of time I’ve covered a broad range of subjects that have affected my life in some way, from forced confinement to sexual abuse to eating disorders to true love and although it’s all revealing of the thoughts that flutter through my mind, it’s certainly not proof positive that I’m a big jerk.

The more I write the more I take pause when I have a thought.  The more I write the more I want to pay attention to those thoughts that make me take pause.  I wonder how I can explore them and plumb the depths of my psyche so I can find the things that matter to me and write about those.  It doesn’t matter how dark, it doesn’t matter how happy or brutal the endings are, all that matters is that I am exploring all those bits of me that I have previously ignored.

I wonder how often writers miss opportunities to write about something that truly matters to them because they’re only skimming the surface of their thoughts?

Do you avoid the depths or do you dive right down and try to find the issues that make you squirm?

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My Inner Darkness

Yesterday I received a prompt for a story that got me thinking about my childhood.  I was planning the story in my mind, a simple tale of a car that that took me where ever I needed to go without having to actually drive there.  I was planning it out and trying to find the story and the voice.  I thought about it for half the day and I wasn’t getting anywhere.  If the story doesn’t come after giving it some decent thought I usually discuss it with Ben and we work it out together, but Ben wasn’t there so I decided to shelve it in favor of another story I had been considering.

I wanted to write something light and happy, so I set to work imagining this new concept into being.  But as I followed the trail of ‘logic’ and ideas deeper into the story I realized it was not going to be as light and happy as I intended, in fact it was starting to look like it might be something completely different.  In the past few days I have been noticing that my writing has been distinctively dark, veering into the disturbing and it has made me wonder.  I used to think that I was against writing about dark and disturbing things, without the hope of a happy ending.  This was mostly because of what it might say about me.  Was I a pessimist at heart?  Was I not as positive as I needed to be in order to live a happy life?  People always say write what you know and so, does that mean that this trend of unsettling tales is what I know?  Does all of this expose some sort of horrible darkness lurking within me?

I suppose one could psychoanalyze one’s art all day long and find hidden patterns exposing the kind of person they truly are, but the question I ask myself then is: does it really matter?  So what if my stories tend to speak of isolation, with hints of misery and suggestions of despair?  So what if I dive into the depths of negative emotions?  My stories aren’t just black holes sucking you in, they also glitter with magic and mystery.  They tantalize with hints of worlds beyond this one and they sparkle with intrigue.  I like to think that although they may be dark they are also so much more.   But even if they weren’t would it really make a difference?  Some of the most interesting and well written stories I have ever read involve intense horror and nightmarish mystery.

I should explain that my concern about being dark and negative is not without it’s roots. I have been told in the past that certain amounts of negativity can be bad for the soul and that what I write reveals a great many things about who I am as a person.  I suppose I have a little left-over trauma from that time and find that I am more sensitive then most would be about the direction my stories take.  I certainly don’t want to be bound by these ideas though and I wouldn’t want anyone else to be either.

So I hereby agree to release myself into the land of my imagination.  I will allow my stories to take whatever form they wish and unfetter myself from concerns about my inner darkness. Maybe one day I will write a bright and cheery story, but if that thought doesn’t inspire me, why bother?