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On Overstimulation (and writing longhand)

“The worst thing for me is overstimulation. Checking e-mail manically can do it. Getting on the phone really can do it. I have learned that I must protect myself from that overstimulation and get to the page…” ~ Dani Shapiro

The words above are by author Dani Shapiro from “How I Write” in The Writer (Feb. 2011). Some distractions are just that: momentary detours from our main focus. But others are sources of overstimulation. They not only lead the mind astray, they also rev it up in unproductive ways.

My guess is that what is overstimulating for one person (a phone call, for example) may be just what is needed for someone else to get motivated, so it is useful to pay attention to our energy highs and lows throughout the day, to see what precedes them, what is overstimulating.

Writing that has “no business looking neat”

Here’s another quotation from the same piece:

“In recent years, I have started writing longhand when I’m embarking on something. There’s something about writing longhand in spiral-bound notebooks where you have to allow it to be messy. You have to cross something out as opposed to cut and paste it. There’s something about writing on the computer that can make something look neat when it has no business looking neat. I like the process of writing longhand. There’s a freedom to it…”

You can learn more about Dani Shapiro at her website (loaded with essays and interviews) and on her blog, Moments of Being.

Questions for Reflection

  • What is your experience with being under- or overstimulated in terms of writing and creativity?
  • Do you find the experience of writing longhand to be different from writing on a computer?
  • Do you ever suffer from wanting writing to be or look neat when it has no business being so?

DIY Summer Writing Retreat graphicThis post is part of the DIY Summer Writing Retreat blog series, with daily posts Monday through Friday. Subscribe to receive full-length new posts in your inbox or catch them on my Facebook page.

2 thoughts on “On Overstimulation (and writing longhand)

  1. I rarely do anything long-hand any more, but I will if I have to. If I find myself waiting at a restaurant, no problem. I have a pen and pad in my purse and I pull it out and start making notes, on something….groceries, chapter ideas, dialogue that has been bouncing around in my head. Then later, I transcribe it unless it’s a grocery list then it gets used an thrown away. I’m also a pack rat of practically everything. What could I do with 12 shopping lists? Is there a story in that? As a late blooming writer, I’m somewhat an overachiever, I think, trying always to stay on task even when I’m not. As for stimulation, doesn’t bother me at all. Helps if anything. Gives me a break and a chance to think things through again when I come back to the page. Love this post!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Sally! I do find the variability of how people react to stimulation fascinating–knowing oneself well seems to be the key. “12 Shopping Lists” definitely sounds like a short story title. 🙂

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