Getting an idea for a story from your head is a complicated and important process and writers have their own unique ways of doing it. For most that way is the only way. I asked a few writers how they begin a rough draft: by hand with pen and paper or using a computer? Here are their answers and why they do it that way.
Cheryl Ntumy: I do everything on the computer, including notes, outlines, etc. I find that ideas flow better, it saves time and it helps me get straight into work mode so I never find myself waiting for inspiration. It’s also convenient because I can easily find my notes, look something up or refer to my other work without interrupting the flow.
Ayodele Olofintuade: My writing process has changed over the years. From writing by hand and then transferring to a system, I now work exclusively on my laptop.
As you well know the first draft is mostly about getting the basic idea down. That feverish state when words are leaking through your fingers and splattering themselves on your brand new page. (The only exciting bit of writing). So it really doesn’t matter whether I’m writing by hand or typing.
Legodile Seganabeng: I use the computer for my first drafts. I find it quite faster for me, and I don’t worry about having to type the draft later on. Also, I have bad hand writing, especially when I write quickly, and it’s possible that I may not be able to read what I’ve written.
Donald Molosi: My first “draft” is usually a long list of bullet points or diagrams illustrating how I want to tackle an idea and that is always written by hand. I always have a white board on one of the walls in my house for that. And when I am out of the house I always carry a notebook for that purpose. It matters because I brainstorm more freely when I write by hand. When I draw it on the white board, diagrams are quicker and more organic than when I do a cold technical diagram by computer. It is easier for me to illustrate the idea by hand before it escapes.
Prince Kamaazengi Marenga I: Before I write anything, I go through a ‘gestation period’... absorbing and taking everything in, allowing the mind to be fully fertilised. This period may take few hours, few days or few months depending on how high or
Jenny Robson: I always write by hand first. In fact there is a strong ritual where I have to write in a hard-cover A4 manuscript book always in pen and always with a crocodile clip to keep my place. I only write on the right-hand side so the left-hand side is clear for additional notes and corrections and inserts. Writing by hand makes me feel secure and ‘safe’ and relaxed about the work. It reminds me that this is only a rough draft, that any poor writing can be fixed up, that the finished article lies in the future and not the present. So I am free to try out different ways of saying things, different tenses, different points of view. I am free to make mistakes.
My ideas seem to flow well with the flow of my scribbling…Just once in a while, when I am feeling foolhardy or a little lazy, I might type the rough draft directly into my PC. But when I do, I tend to feel a little ashamed – that I am not giving out my best and not being a serious, hard-working writer.
Sylvia Schlettwein: I write down first ideas and the ‘seeding’ paragraph/ image/ dialogue by hand, then I type those into the computer and continue writing on the computer. While I am working on a piece, I often set aside “handwriting” sessions (in bed, on the veranda, on the couch, but not at my desk) to write down ideas or whole passages by hand in an exercise book. It matters because, no matter how ugly my handwriting is, moving that pen or pencil across a paper in a more or less flowing movement gets my thoughts and creativity flowing. The writing becomes an extension of my brain and heart. I don’t think I’ve ever written a first draft or thoughts on the computer.