I began a little experiment a while ago, which I wrote about on Medium. In my day job as a PA, I attend a lot of meetings and take minutes (17 a month!). I’d been using a laptop to take notes, to save time having to transcribe later, and I noticed that – while I was able to capture a great deal of the conversation – when I came to edit the minutes, I found it difficult to remember who said what and in what context. This is because I wasn’t actively listening to the conversation. I was hearing it, but rather than processing what was said, I was simply acting as a conduit for the words to reach the keyboard.
After realising this, I started taking pen and paper into the meetings and writing up the notes afterwards. It takes a little longer, but I’m able to recall the conversation while I’m transcribing onto the computer, and everything makes so much more sense. Of course, it still needs the meeting Chair to keep the conversation focused, and for my colleagues to be clear on what they’re discussing and not assume I can read their minds on conversations that took place outside the meeting, but on the whole I’m confident it has been a success.
As a result, I’ve also taken to writing first drafts of my fiction by hand in a notebook. I’m using a fountain pen too, because it makes me write more slowly and gives me time to think (and encourages me to write neatly, so that I can understand what I’ve written when it’s time to transcribe!). After doing this for several weeks, I can honestly say that it’s been a revelation. Over those weeks, I’ve written more than I had in months. Not only have I spurred ahead on my rewrite of The Lost Weaver, I also have four new short stories out on submission, and another in the works.
I think the reasons for this are twofold:
- With pen and paper, I’m far less likely to fall down a rabbit-hole on the Internet
- There’s something about writing by hand that acts as a catalyst to my creativity
Whatever the reason, I’m loving it.
I’ve also developed a mild obsession with fountain pens. Being a lefty (handed as well as politically), I always had a hard time with fountain pens in my youth. Because we lefties push the pen across the page instead of pulling, I would always end up mangling the nibs. I’m still disappointed in the lack of pens made for left-handed people: the only affordable brand I can find is the German manufacturer, Lamy. Lamy pens are great (the one on the right is a Lamy Nexx with a left-handed nib); however, I’ve also learned that – as a lefty – I can get away with using a regular fountain pen as long as the nib is a medium (the one on the left is a Cross Bailey with regular medium nib). I have a couple of Cross pens, both of which write nicely, and I have my eye on this blue Conklin Durograph, just because it’s so pretty and because I’d like to see how it writes.
Another mild obsession is sparkly fountain pen ink. I’ve been trying out some of the different Diamine colours, and my favourites at the moment are Arabian Nights and Lilac Satin. I think I might try the Arctic Blue next.
I carry my notebooks everywhere and write whenever I get an opportunity, which has also helped increase my word count. With the recent hot weather, I’ve been sitting in the air conditioned bliss of our local Costa to wait for my husband to pick me up in the evenings, instead of fighting to get on a hot crowded bus. Sometimes I have to wait an hour, but that’s an hour with an iced coffee and my notebook. No wonder my word count has increased!