Review Writing: By Hand vs. By Keyboard

I avoid television commercials whenever possible by watching as much programming as possible on some kind of time-delay, either via DVR or by purposely starting a program 15 minutes late so that I can still zip through all the obnoxious commercials that interrupt it. But one of them somehow made it into my subconscious and influenced my behavior – although I still can’t tell you what company is advertising what product in the ad.

Some of you may have seen this one. It opens with a guy who standing (maybe sitting, I can’t even remember that) below floor-level and speaking to a woman who is standing beside him, but on floor level. She says something to him like, “You really are in a rut, aren’t you?” The man looks up at her and responds with something like, “Huh, and all this time I thought I was in a groove.” Well anyway, that’s the gist of their conversation, and it got me to thinking about how difficult it might be to tell the difference between a rut and a groove if you are the person experiencing it.

So I decided to try something a little different today.

I write at least 95% of my reviews and other Book Chase stuff on the same computer, sitting in the same desk chair, surrounded by the same old distractions that are always there to tempt me. Am I in a groove, or am I in a rut? Only one way to find out, so this morning I carried a notebook, a pen, and the last book I finished over to a local Panera Bread outlet to shake things up a bit…well, more than a bit because I have never before written an entire review by-hand and that’s what I intended to do. I know, of course, that many authors still write entire books by-hand but that’s always seemed to me to be a little bit of an anachronism in today’s high-tech world. But maybe, I figured, just maybe these guys know something I don’t know about writing…well, among a whole lot of other things about writing they know that I don’t.

After a quick breakfast sandwich consumed while reading the next-to-last chapter of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, it was time to find out what would happen next (by this point I was feeling as reluctant about what I was about to do as the fundamentalist in Hamid’s title felt about his own decision). Just over an hour later, including the time it took for me to verify a couple of dates I wanted to use, I had a review of almost-four handwritten pages in front of me. As usual, I did my first edit while writing the draft, so even that phase of the process is over. And, because I always do at least two edits before posting anything, a second edit will be done as I transcribe the written review in Word. The only thing I’m unsure about now is the word count of the written review, but I’m hoping the final version fits somewhere in the usual range of the 450-600 words I always shoot for.

All in all, it appears that this process will even shave a few minutes off of the two hours I usually spend on writing and final prep-work on my reviews, something I did not at all expect to happen – and it was a whole lot more fun.

So it does look like I was in a rut, and not a groove, after all, but before confirming that theory, I’m going to have to try this again a few times. You never know, do you? Maybe that weird commercial did me some good.

(If you’ve never considered writing by hand instead of using a keyboard, here’s something interesting from the Mental Floss website you might want to consider.)

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