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Writing In A Binder | How To Write By Hand In The Face Of Impostor Syndrome


It's rare that there is only one approach to writing or one single way to go about storytelling. Writers find their own ways of handling things, and their methods evolve over time.


Long-time readers of the blog know I prefer writing my first drafts by hand whenever possible. It's not the most efficient method, as it's time-consuming not only to do the writing itself but type everything up in whichever software I'm using, but I've found it's easier to write when the distractions are reduced and it allows me to feel more immersed in my WIP; something about using a pencil and paper feels more intimate than a computer and a keyboard.


I did get an Alphasmart Neo2 for my birthday, and so far, so good (I'll be writing a more in-depth review of the device for about July or so, once I've spent enough time with it for a fair and proper evaluation).


Even though it's my preference, writing by hand has its fair share of problems in addition to how much time it requires. I'll never forgive myself for losing the first twelve or so chapters of Forged in the Salle after I lost the notebook (something that also happened with a two-part blog post on writing workshops that I swear is somewhere in my house but have yet to find).


Depending on your proverbial weapon of choice, you may also find yourself staring down a foe I've written about quite a bit on the blog: impostor syndrome.


To recap, impostor syndrome pertains to that feeling of not being worthy of something or good enough for a position despite being qualified for it, as if you were an impostor hiding among experts and those you feel are more deserving of occupying that space.


Impostor syndrome likes to rear its ugly head in my writing process far more often than it needs to.


As far as writing drafts by hand, it shows up in deciding what those drafts may call home.


Like plenty of writers, I have a stash of pretty notebooks I've yet to write in. Gorgeous covers, some bound in faux leather, just waiting to be used. However, the hoard continues to grow because I can never bring myself to use them strictly out of a fear of ruining them with a story that isn't good enough for them.


It sounds silly, right? Notebooks are meant to be written in. Yet I end up holding myself back time and time again.


I've come to favor composition notebooks, the black-and-white ones you can pick up for an infinitesimal price and stock up on during all the back-to-school sales. They're easy to find and I don't feel as bad if I mess up or need to cross something out.


There are times I struggle with using even those. That's not a result of imposter syndrome (usually), but instead a worry I'll need to move things around.


In a digital draft, you can copy + paste text or drag it to where it needs to be. On paper, that's not as feasible. I know some writers who will cut passages out and glue them on a different page, but it always seemed like too much of a mess.


Additionally, composition notebooks are manufactured like most printed books. In this case, you have longer sheets of paper that are folded down the middle and piled one inside the next fold to create the signatures. They are then sewn together, right in the middle of the stack.


The problem with this is when you tear out a page, the other half of the sheet on the opposite side of the book is likely to fall out. e.g. Pages 2 and 98 in a 100-page notebook.


Keeping things together can leave you feeling stuck.


That's why I've come to appreciate loose-leaf paper in a binder for my writing.


It gives me the ability to make those adjustments. If I start on what would be Chapter 18 but realize halfway in that it should really be Chapter 17 or 19, it's easier to shift.


On the blogging side of things, I'm able to jot down ideas for multiple posts at once without worrying about flipping through pages that are stitched together and attempting to figure out where one post ends and another begins.


And in the event you need to scrap a page altogether, it's so much easier to do in a binder.


The thing is, writing in a binder is actually how I got my start as a more serious writer. All through high school, I was carting around a binder to every class, drafting my first stab at writing a full novel whenever I had a few minutes. That thing took a beating, to the point the plastic on the cover was peeling off, the metal rings inside no longer closed completely, I had those little circle stickers on a lot of the pages to keep them in there, and the whole thing was held together with duct tape.


It was my means of writing back then because I didn't have a computer of my own. And frankly, even though I wouldn't recognize it as such, I was already confronted with the idea of not being worthy of the pretty notebooks. Because even though a first draft is guaranteed to be rough and shitty, I was convinced it had to be some evidently unachievable level of perfection.


I dream of one day casting those quandaries and fears aside and being brave enough to use a notebook I didn't pick up at the dollar store. One chosen not for its function, but the art on its cover or the filigree swirling on the pages. Something frankly superficial and frivolous, without the worry of ruining them with my words.


But for now, a binder shall do.



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