Lynda Barry on Why Writing and Typing are Different Things

from Lynda Barry’s What It Is. Go buy this book.

from pages 107-109. Her book is a graphic collage, so the sentences on the page are scattered, not in direct narrative prose. Translating it into only the words typed out loses a lot, but will give you a feel of the power she’s describing and transmitting.

Why write by hand? What is a hand? What is it connected to? What moves it?

A body in motion is moved by……

There is a state of mind which is not accessible by thinking. It seems to require a participation with something. Something physical we move like a pen, like a pencil. Something which is in motion ordinary motion like writing the alphabet. (Or you can tap your fingers 26 times on plastic buttons. This is motion but in the motion there are no variables).

The slowest way is the fastest way.

Being in motion for writing

I have found that writing by hand slowly is faster than a computer-way of doing it, though I know it’s not easy the way a computer is easy. Tapping a finger is not as complicated as making the original line the shape of a S.

Hand writing is an image left by a living being in motion. It cannot be duplicated in time or space. Only by being a being in motion can you know about it.

It’s so hard to do at first. It can make you feel crazy.

Different parts of the brain are used when we make an S by hand and more of the body than a finger tap and images seem to come from this kind of being in motion.

Wow. And yes – handwriting is actually drawing, making shape to represent a thought or image, translated first through spoken language, and through the filter of learned phonemic awareness. Typing is that at yet another distance, another translation, no more forming shapes but only directly recording.

I think that when more of us actually wrote, and we were stuck, we doodled—made shapes that we weren’t investing with recorded language, let our minds wander along the line—and that this served a really important purpose about opening up the mind. How do we do that, if at all, when typing? I know I sometimes start typing “blayh blah blaha blahah b” until more words come. If I stop typing all together, I go check email or facebook then the whole moment is lost.

I do know that are some poems that demand to be written by hand, even though the slow rate of making changes that way is very frustrating to me. I write fewer words by hand, everything is more sparse. Very little of my poetry could be described as “lyric,” but the pieces that are mainly started by hand.

Actually forming letters has a solidity to it, a weight, a process that physically moves through time, that takes time. And energy. And muscles and nerves and ligaments working in unbelievably complex ways.

Which, of course, I am typing to you about.


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