Friday, September 12, 2014

The Lost Art Of Handwriting

I read an interesting article today about the benefits of writing with pen and paper. It appeared in the Huffington Post, where nobody writes with pen and paper. You can read it here.

According to the article, a 2013 study done by a learning specialist at Indiana University's School of Medicine determined there were numerous benefits to writing by hand. Among them, sparking your creativity, driving higher brain functions and limiting distractions.

Of course, none of this matters. People don't like writing with a pen and paper because they have to scan it into their computer and optical character recognition software still isn't very good, so they end up doing too much re-writing.

Personally, I think the best kind of writing is any kind. If you have a pen and paper handy, go for it. The fantasy author Piers Anthony wrote his entire Xanth series (and lord knows how many other books) long form on legal pads which were later transcribed for publication. J.K. Rowling also enjoys writing long hand, and all her Harry Potter novels were produce with that method.

Were they more creative that way? Maybe. Did they prefer it. Undoubtedly.

It makes sense that there are physiological benefits to writing long hand. Personally, I write with two fingers--using a keyboard, of course, not a pen. I find it allows me to keep up a faster pace than I could if I were writing with a pen and paper. This is the only method which allows me to write close to the pace at which I think. To try and write it long hand I would find myself dwelling too long on specific words phrases, rather than allowing the story to flow freely from my mind as I prefer it.

If it bad for me to write this way? No. Should you write this way? I have no idea.

Many young writers think they need to buy a fancy leather bound notebook to write their great novel. This is wrong-headed. If they have a novel within them it will come out. They can use crayon to accomplish this or lead-based paint, it makes no difference. But choosing a method to write because you think it will make you a better writer is lunacy. Only writing itself can make you a better writing, not how you write.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Russian Writers Flex Their Muscles

You might believe in the power of the written word as I do, but in Russia that power compels people to do things they might not otherwise have dreamed possible.

This past weekend, in protest of what they consider to be a government running amok, 12 Russian authors walked from one Moscow city park to another. It wasn't a march, they had no permits for a march. It was just a casual walk to see whether it could be accomplished without them being molested by police.

It was unannounced, unplanned, unorganized. Yet still, 10,000 people joined them on their stroll through Moscow as if together they were of one mind, one heart; one singular purpose which was to express their displeasure in the grandest, most peaceful way.

As it happened no police stopped them or accosted them or questioned them, though the group snarled traffic and nearly brought the city to a stand still. No military intervention was required to calm the crowd, because they were as calm as people out for a leisurely stroll could possibly be.

Yet they were purposeful. They demanded the attention of their government and they received it. They made their Will known not only to the people they passed but all the way to the office of President Vladimir Putin.

Russian writers, under the rule of Stalin and the Soviet Empire, were subjected to some of the harshest treatment imaginable. They were threatened, their families threatened; imprisoned for years on end with no hope for parole; forgotten and pushed to the brink of extinction. Yet still they endure. Nay--they thrive.

The walk began at the statue of writer Aleksandr Pushkin and ended across town at a statue of playwright Aleksandr Griboyedov. Although the government allowed the walk to happen undisturbed a new bill in the Russian Parliament would impose fines of about $50,000 and 740 hours of compulsory labor on public protesters who did so without a permit.

Do not be confused. This was not a battle to win the hearts and minds of the Russian people. They are already firmly focused on their chosen leaders, and I don't mean Putin or his buddies at the Kremlin. I am referring to the writers. They have captured the attention of the people. They made them think and act in ways which they have not, until now. Until they walked. They didn't throw rocks or bottles. They were not incited to violence. They did not threaten the government.

They walked. And with that walk they made their point crystal clear.

No doubt there's a story in here somewhere.....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Harry Potter For 'Rent'

In what Amazon is surely counting as a major win on its behalf, J.K. Rowling's uber-popular 'Harry Potter' series is now available in the Kindle library as part of their Amazon Prime service. That means subscribers can borrow the books, one at a time, for an annual subscription rate.

If you want to buy the digital version of Rowling's books, however, you will need to visit her web site, Pottermore.

The fact that Amazon managed to secure the rights to make Rowling's books available for some readers is fairly astonishing, especially given the tight controls Rowling has placed on them so far. Although she is now worth an estimated $1 billion Rowling has expressed a serious desire to keep the 'Potter' books as secure as possible, thereby securing as much of the profits as she possibly can.

Nothing wrong with that. They are her works and she can do as she pleases with them.

I am more interested in this lending program at Amazon. It seems to me, given that I just wrote about libraries buying eBooks in order to then lend them to customers, that Amazon is in essence becoming the world's largest library. Sure there is an annual fee subscribers must pay, but every citizen who owns property pays for the use of public libraries via their taxes, whether they use the library or not.

Does this mean private libraries might some day replace the public libraries many of us have come to love and adore? Not likely. Amazon is hardly able to provide the wealth of different services currently available at the local library, not including the personnel who work there and act as repositories of a wealth of information.

It is worth noting however, that as future generations become more used to the availability of digitized information they may find themselves less inclined to leave their home to get what they need. Research, reference material; video, audio and now eBooks are all being made available on a more or less "free" basis via the Internet. This is doubtlessly going to have at least some impact on library attendance and use. Of course, librarians are nothing if not creative and I could easily imagine a day when they focus more on the "real" and less on the digital as a way of being a unique commodity.

What does this mean for writers? Not much. I've just had libraries on the brain lately.