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Handwritten: For the Love of Writing

Each morning, cup of coffee in hand, I head to my tiny study where my favorite chair awaits. It's lipstick red, and actually from an old beauty shop. Once, it had the astronaut helmet hair dryer attached, but no more. It is low to the ground, has arm rests (where my Fillion perches), and a seat wide enough to allow for me to sit in lotus position.

People who know me deeply have heard me gently remind my kids that "We love people, not things," but my Fillions feel less like objects, and more like a part of me. I carry both of mine with me everywhere and they carry me, all of me--the most fully integrated and honest version of myself--within their pages. I have one for work( including a calendar and notebooks for prepping, planning, and reconsidering classes and lessons, one for my  unspooling "To Do" list, and another notebook for meeting notes, minutes, and an ever growing reading list), and one for morning journal, and creative writing seeds, drafts, and dreaming. There are few places or people as accepting as the blank pages within my Fillion, and when I give the gift of a Fillion, what I'm really trying to convey is that I want to be like the pages within. I want to be as accepting, as nonjudgemental, and as able to contain the amazing richness and complexity of my friend, family member, or loved one. When I give the gift of of a Fillion, I am really conveying that I feel a deep connection, and I want to share something that has provided not only pleasure, but meaning to my life: writing.

Recently, in a meeting, a colleague stated that writing is painful and all writers are masochists. I countered that writing can be entirely joyful. A joke was made about 50 Shades of Writing. Now, I wish I would have simply reached for my Fillion and countered more passionately. I would have brought up the fact that indeed, the physical act of writing longhand is a sensuous act. When I write each morning, I feel the soft leather pressing against my knees, and the sturdy weight of my stacked notebooks is a reassurance. My Rollerball pen nestles in the crook of my thumb, and my fingers form a tripod, guiding my rollicking cursive script across the page. I am really there, in my body, in my brain, and in my breath in a way I will have to reel myself back, again and again, during the rest of the day. In this time, I come to know myself or imagine myself, recount dreams or roll worries around until I unravel them. I reflect and revise, cross out and rephrase. I underline and doodle. My longhand is unedited and messy and rooted in the five senses.

I use and appreciate technology daily, but all of my creative work work begins and is initially drafted longhand. I am not trying to romanticize the process, nor do I deny the struggle of writing and the difficulty of it as a discipline. I am not trying to talk anyone into thinking my process is the right way, only that it is the way that works for me. This first draft is the draft of possibilities and discoveries, and it means I'm not distracted by social media or work emails--it is a place apart. Once I've found a story's shape, the core of a poem, the true seed of the essay, then I move on to my computer where the editing side kicks in--the scissored voice that clips judiciously and can delete whole pages without flinching. But inside my Fillion, there is no shame regarding the tenderest parts of, nor the darkest rooms in my heart and head, nor for the overwritten passages and ridiculous metaphors I give my emotions. I know that they are the path toward getting it (whatever it may be) down, so it can be revised artfully and fearlessly. We need places to shelter the tenderest parts of ourselves, and honestly, it's helped me to contain, unabashedly, all of of who I am and bring it to the world.

Every morning, my Fillion is a pleasure to hold, handle, unwrap and write in. I have been lucky enough to visit Little Mountain Bindery. I described this amazing space to a friend by saying it was like a bakery for book lovers--oh the smells of leather and paper and metal! It feels like good church--a place of focus, concentration, and creation. The work that they do is important, and it is so evidently done with love. And honestly, every morning my Fillion connects me to that, first thing. I want to bring beauty to the world too.

When I first address similes and metaphors  with students in my Intro to Creative Writing class, I have students bring in an object of importance that represents them. I bring in my extra-large trifold. I show them the patina that the oil of my hands has imparted from daily handling. I pull out the treasures the pocket envelopes hold--postcards and notes and photographs. I explain the charms; a fork because I love to cook and feed others, and I recently rediscovered I want to devour the world, and a typewriter. One of the first sounds I remember is my father typing on an electric typewriter he would give me, a decade and a half later, in high school. The same typewriter I would pound out my first poems and attempts at stories. I show students my inked scrawls--letters to myself, letters to the world, letters to and from my head and heart and gut as they all try to get on the same page before I go out into the world--where I hope to live richly, wholly, so that I have something to write about when morning breaks anew.



Barbara Lawhorn is an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University. She’s into literacy activism, walking Banjo (the best dog in the history of the universe), running, baking and eating bread, and finding the wild places within and outside. Her most recent work can be found at The Longleaf Pine, BLYNKT, Nebo: A Literary Magazine, and Naugatuck River Review. Her favorite creative endeavors are her kids, Annaleigh and Jack.



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