Monday, 10 July 2017

This post has no pictures by Juliet Clare Bell

I'm trying a new way of writing. Without writing.

I have a temporary problem with my arms and hands which makes writing and typing very difficult. Fortunately it is only temporary, and I am trying to learn what I can from this enforced difference in the way that I try to write.

As anyone who knows me can testify, I talk a lot. My answer phone messages are always too long and I can take a lot longer to say something than I need. Which is why writing picture books has been a really interesting challenge for me over the years.  

I'm a really messy thinker. So for me, I always need to start by brainstorming ideas messily onto a piece of paper. And when I start structuring my picture book, I leave out the vast majority of the original thoughts that I had. But I do need to get them down on paper before I start refining my thoughts. I think best by writing things or typing things down. 

Soon I'll be able to write and type things again properly. By the end of the summer, things should be back to normal. And I will be very happy when that happens. But in spite of the frustration of not being able to do what I want to do, it has also been an interesting learning experience.

Here are some things I have learnt.

So much of my thought processes are crystallised by writing things down. I discover what I'm really trying to say by writing it down. Voice recognition software on the phone has been brilliant, but even making to do lists by speaking rather than writing is massively less efficient for me. It's not just that it's slower, it's that I still haven't learnt to think that way. So I miss out loads of things I should be doing. 

Writing helps me remember what I'm trying to remember in a way that speaking does not.

Someone told me the other day how my text messages now are like my old answer phone messages! But in fact, text messages and emails are the easiest things to do with voice recognition software if they're just about something practical. And actually, when everything is completely better again soon, I will still use voice recognition software for those kinds of texts and emails- because it is really quick.

Some people are very quick writers. They can say what they want to say really concisely from the start. I, on the other hand, am very slow. And without being able to brainstorm first so I can see what my ideas are in order to structure what I write, I am going to be slower than ever over the next few months...

Brought to you by voice recognition softer with minimal editing and no brainstorming so no structuring. 

If you've ever tried new ways of writing, physically, because of an injury or condition, how much has it actually affected what you write?

And has anyone come up with a way of brainstorming without having to use your hands?


  1. I pray your physical problem will be healed. May God give you peace and strength daily:)

  2. I've tried writing with my left hand (I'm right-handed) in order to remind myself quite how much concentration the act of writing takes when you are a beginner at it, i.e. what young children experience. Good luck with that hand, Clare!

  3. Thanks for this post. I hope your hand gets much better soon! I haven't had an injury or condition that has affected the way I write but I did one compose a picture book text at a silent meditation retreat! We weren't supposed to talk or read or write so I couldn't use pen or paper or say the words out loud. I found it helpful to pace around the gardens as I re-worded and restructured the verses in my head. I think it helped with the rhythm too. As you might have guessed, I wasn't exactly the ideal meditation student... but I do still know that story by heart!

  4. What an interesting article. It's a challenge to change the way you have always worked. But what an interesting opportunity to really think about and understand your own process. I personally am messy and slow with my process. I don't know if a dictation device would be helpful, but it is worth exploring.

  5. Hey, I hope you're getting better. Golly I can't do anything without my hands – I can't think and talk at the same time! If I ever lost the use of my hands, I will have to develop writing skills with my toes!