How should I write?

Could I use a computer for writing? Which software is best? What about an old typewriter? Or pen and paper?

How should I write?

Does writing by hand put me in better contact with my voice? If I write on a computer, what kind of software would serve me best? Why not use a classic typewriter? Which writing tool will make the clouds separate and take me to heaven?

I have asked myself these questions hundreds of times and experimented with them throughout the years. The truth is that even though handwriting has more benefits for your brain, you can write any way you like, as long as you write.

There is only one rule, really, and that is to write to understand. Once you figure out the best way to do that, stick with it.

Speed or depth?

In my own experience there is truth to the saying that you are in better contact with your voice, when you use pen and paper. The movements of your hand when holding a pen results in an emotionally deeper way of writing, whereas writing on a keyboard tends to be more mental. Research also supports this theory.

But that's me, and even I change between writing by hand and keyboard from time to time. The computer keyboard has its advantages in terms of being faster and not having to write everything twice. With the end goal being publishing that's a pretty big advantage.

However, writing on the computer can result in shallower writing. It's not as deep, because we tend to sacrifice depth in exchange for speed. Writing with pen and paper comes in handy there, since the slower pace of the pen leads to greater depth in our writing.

Write without distractions

Also, with pen and paper you can write distraction free. There are no notifications disrupting your focus and demanding unwanted attention (unless you keep your phone on, which of course you shouldn't). You are not tempted to check social media, the latest sports news, or anything like that either. The only thing you can do is write.

Still, if you can maintain your discipline and focus on the actual process of writing without distractions, the computer is a good choice. There is a meditative quality to the tapping on the keyboard that you can take advantage of. It has a rhythm to it, which is always an important aspect of writing.

Sometimes it helps to use a distraction free word processor like IA Writer or uFocus (which I can both highly recommend) and then simply turn off the Wi-Fi. There is also the old journalist trick of turning off the screen and start typing like crazy, not being able to see your text until you are done (and hope it's readable).

The sound of writing

Then there is the option of the classic typewriter. It has a lot of inspiring nostalgia to it, but it's not very practical. You have to be quite good at the skill of old school typing, which means actually punching the keys with precision, to fully appreciate it. Otherwise, mistyping will drive you insane.

The typewriter has one huge advantage, though: the sound of being productive. Nothing beats that sound, and even though you are probably writing much faster on a computer, you feel extremely productive when using a typewriter. Maybe that's why many writers are turning towards typewriters these days?

If you are into the sound of writing to get any writing done, there is a modern alternative called OmmWriter, which is pretty cool. I tested it last summer when I was ghostwriting a book, and it works particularly well when sitting in a noisy environment such as a café.

Just put on your headphones, open the app and immerse yourself in a beautiful graphical experience of writing accompanied by subtle sound effects of your choice, like dripping water or typewriter keys, and soothing background music. It's surprisingly effective.

It's all about writing

Having said all that, let's keep in mind that it's all about writing. Searching for the perfect writing tool, in order to get any writing done, is often nothing but an escape from getting any writing done. It's okay to experiment with different tools, but try to attach it to a project and test it at length. It keeps you focused on your writing, instead of searching for tools.

At the end of the day it's a personal choice. It depends on the goal of your writing. Given the fact that this is Five Element Writing, and we only write to understand, not to publish, I would personally recommend writing by hand. It also happens to make you smarter.

The emotional value of a nice notebook and a great pen is unparalleled when it comes to writing. It's so much easier to create results with, and you don't have to depend on electricity, battery life, or any of the Internet stuff. Your notebook is always there, ready to go.