random thoughts: hand writing and slowing down


One of my jobs as a lawyer involved writing software licensing agreements between my employer, a software company, and large, multinational petroleum companies.  These agreements often involved tens of millions of dollars, so as you might imagine, some of the associated contracts were huge -- 50, 60 pages, or more.  Writing these agreements was the funnest part of my job as a lawyer (and, despite how that sounds, I actually loved my job).  I'd put on my headphones, open a new Microsoft Word document, and start drafting away.  As a result, my typewriting skills got really good.

Negotiating these contracts was often a lengthy procedure, with legal teams from each party going back and forth, making little nits here, and adding small clauses there, and sometimes re-drafting entire sections altogether.  Usually one of the lawyers -- me, or opposing counsel -- would make the edits.  And if I was the one who was tasked with making them, I would invariably do so by hand writing and hand drafting them first, before editing on the computer.

"Why are you doing that?" my boss would sigh when he saw me scribbling notes all around the printed contract.  "Doesn't this take you longer? You know, you could edit it in Word.  Word will even show you your edits while you make them."

"I know, I know," I'd say.  "But I think through it better this way."

I'm still like this, actually.  Whenever I got stuck writing my book, I'd shut down my computer and pull out some paper and hand write my words, before turning the computer back on, and typing it back in.  Even yesterday, I decided to do a little brainstorming about the directions I'd like my work to take over the next 5 years or so, and there was no way I could do it on a screen -- it had to go in my journal.

For the longest time, I thought that I my hand writing obsession was actually just me stalling -- that my turning away from the computer was actually a thinly veiled attempt  at doing anything to feel productive, without actually doing the work.  But then, also yesterday, I found this New York Times article, that extols the virtues of writing by hand.  I particularly liked this:

Cursive or not, the benefits of writing by hand extend beyond childhood. For adults, typing may be a fast and efficient alternative to longhand, but that very efficiency may diminish our ability to process new information. 

I'm feeling vindicated.  I mean, you know how I love me some journaling.  Now I don't feel guilty about using it to straight-up work, too.


Song:  Writer's block by Just Jack