I’ve been AWOL recently because I’ve been busy writing! I’m trying to slide Book 3 of my mystery trilogy into a channel where it will start floating right along (I suspect you get that metaphor), and I’ve been keyboarding the longhand draft of my “Horse Show Book” (great titles, huh?) that I just completed last week. My hope is that the closing scenes of this psychological suspense/mystery will work as well when I type them as they seemed when I (literally) penned them. We’ll see.
Apropos of that milestone, I had the following conversation with a non-writer friend the other day. I wonder if only writers will “get” this:
Friend: When are you going to publish your Horse Show Book?
Shortly after my post on the joys and advantages of drafting by hand for writers, I began reading an article by Lauren E. Obermark in the November College English, a major journal for teachers of college writing. Obemark examines the environment of graduate studies in English through the lens of disability studies. Fortunately, you can read this article if you find it interesting; it’s available free at https://library.ncte.org/journals/ce/issues/v82-2
I read this article so that I could summarize it for my other blog, CollegeCompositionWeekly. I have not begun the summary yet, as this is a long, complex piece that will take me several passes to capture within my usual constraint of roughly 1000 words. But Obermark’s report on her survey of graduate students opened my eyes to a sin of omission in my cheerful post on handwritten drafts.
I wrote the post because, every time I draft, I appreciate how well drafting by hand works—for me. Obermark made me realize how easily even well-meaning positions can overlook the fact that the conditions I take for granted do not describe reality for everyone. That this caveat did not even occur to me opens my eyes to my own unquestioned assumptions about writing and literacy—to the limitations of my own definition of “literate practices.” Here are some of the really obvious realizations the article provoked:
Handwriting (and, for that matter, keyboarding) requires “sight-work” that, for many, may not be worth the effort or even doable.
Handwriting requires comfort holding a writing instrument, like a pen, and keyboarding requires comfort with the physical demands of typing.
Handwriting requires a steadiness in movement that not all of us may be graced with.
What have I missed? Many things, I’m sure.
I still would argue that for those who find handwriting and keyboarding comfortable, drafting by hand is a productive option worth experimenting with. But this article, and my belated grasp of how I fell so easily into that uninformed majority who think that what is normal for me is normal for all, have led me to wonder: writers need methods of drafting and converting their drafts to submittable texts. Which methods would writers who differ in their ableness from me recommend for capturing creativity and flexibility?