old school

Pen of choice

A common topic of discussion about writing is whether one writes longhand or favours a computer. In my case it’s a combination of both.

I took this picture this morning. In my hand I’m holding my current favourite pen of choice, the Mitsubishi Uniball Jetstream. The pen writes smoothly, the ink dries quickly and there are no clumps. It’s also an easy pen to find. I have several of them in my house at any one point. The biggest problem I think is that they run out quickly, but that might be because I’m writing longhand a lot more at the moment.

Currently I’m writing several pages of longhand – no topic, no censorship – every day. It’s something I’ve added to my routine as a method of freeing up my writing and sorting out what’s in my head. Sometimes I’ll do this several times a day if I have surplus chaff in my head that needs threshing. There are occasions when I refer to this as “writing the crazy out”. I can spot patterns and solutions after writing things down that were difficult to notice while they were whizzing about in my head.

When it comes to fiction I alternate between keyboard and longhand for certain specific tasks.

Poetry always starts with pen and paper. When I want to write a poem I never reach for the keyboard. I write several swift early drafts – with much crossing out – until the main form coalesces and I know what I’m trying to say. At this point I transfer the poem onto the computer, and that’s where I make final adjustments.

Plot ideas for prose and scripts also always start on the page via a pen. I find it easier to brainstorm and allow the first surge of raw concept to pour out if I’m writing longhand. It also lets me doodle – something I do as a method of sidetracking one part of my brain to allow other ideas bubble up.

Generally, I begin and end prose and scripts using the computer. Yet, on many of the projects I will have resorted to paper and pen to loosen up ideas, and on occasion a sudden burst of inspiration can best be captured via longhand.

All editing occurs on the computer. I never print out and edit. I revise work directly on the computer, and relentlessly save every draft as a separate file.

The best thing about pen and paper is that they are not dependent on battery life, and can take being dropped or knocked about in the bottom of your bag or pocket with loose change and keys. I can reach for a pen and paper and jot down notes in almost any situation.

I love my gadgets to death, but sometimes nothing will work for me other than the old school solution: pen and paper.

Addendum: this is what works for me, and is not a prescriptive statement on the correct method to capture inspiration.


  • Sam

    I can’t start anything on the computer. It’s just wrong. I also have different pens for different things and I can’t abide anything other than narrow-ruled paper. I’ll go to all sorts of lengths to find narrow-ruled paper.

    Not that I’m a crazy obsessive or anything.

    • Maura

      It’s a good example that different methods work for different people, and I completely appreciate your need to do things a certain way.

      I don’t think it’s crazy obsessive, it’s just the criteria you need to write. 😉

      The need to write can be compulsive and rather irrational (to many people’s thinking) anyway!

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