The quaint lost art of writing longhand

Writer’s block, especially when you’re trying to make a living as a writer, can be terrifying. 

It’s like being a porn star and, well, you know. 

When I was writing my second book things weren’t moving too great one night, then when I started writing longhand, all the sudden the floodgates opened. (I write most of my stuff – including blog posts – in longhand form and then type it up afterwards.)

The L.A. Times just did an article on calligraphy, “still going against type,” and indeed, in today’s “fast-paced world dominated by computers, these master of handwriting make art from letters. For them, the pen is still mightier than the keyboard.”

People do find it odd when they see you working without a computer, but I learned a lot of writers like to work longhand as well, like say George Lucas who wrote Star Wars long hand and Quentin Tarantino.


“One of the really great things about being a writer is it give you complete license to have rituals. I’m not superstitious in my normal life, but I get kind of superstitious about methods of writing. And I know it’s all bullsh*t, it’s just the way I started doing it, so it becomes the way. My ritual is I don’t use a typewriter or a computer, I write by hand,” Tarantino explained during a press junket for Kill Bill Vol. 1. 

“What I do, it’s a ceremony actually, I go to a stationary store and I buy a notebook, the Mead notebooks, one of the red or yellow ones. You can rip out the pages but it’s still got the three holes in it. I’ll buy that notebook and I won’t buy ten of them, I’ll buy one. ‘I’ll just fill this one up and I’ll get another one.’ And I’ll buy a bunch of red felt pens and a bunch of black felt pens, and these are the ones I’m going to write Kill Bill with. And when that happens, then it’s literally taking that f*ckin’ notebook everywhere, pens are always in the pocket.”


Larry Cohen has been writing screenplays since the sixties (Hell Up In Harlem, It’s Alive!, and Q, just to name a few), but he didn’t try writing longhand until he wrote the screenplay for Phone Booth, and he loved the experience.

“There’s a wonderful feeling of connection to what you’re writing that way,” he says. “You feel the dialog running down your arm and onto the page. It’s a delightful little experience.”


John Milius, screenwriter of Apocalypse Now, also told Creative Screenwriting he writes in longhand because “it’s too easy to change things on the computer. You don’t have to hand fit it, and basically, this is hand work. There is no way to make precision parts and put them together. Every screenplay is different so it must be made by hand.”