Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Still Writing By Freehand...At Least Part of the Time

"Drawing Hands," MC Escher, 1948

There once was a triusm that went along the lines of "The pen is mightier than the sword." Of course, that colloquialism is hundreds of years old, back when a quill and a bottle of ink were part and parcel of the writer's trade.

In modern times, however, digital media and word processing has all but replaced the actual pen. Used to be you needed a pen or pencil at the very least for live signatures or to signify review checks and notations. Nowadays, you can scan in your signature for future drops inside a digital document and it's expected to be your legal sign-off. Kinda scary, if you ask me, since that leaves people well open to cyber scum.

As a writer living in a tech-oriented society, I'm not going to pooh-pooh all over my word processor or even my blogging templates, since they serve a purpose in getting my thoughts, ideas, opinions and fiction out there quicker than it would for me to hand write the same, run off a thousand copies and either mail them out or self-street team my own work.

At the same time, there is something therapeutic in the old school manner of taking pen to looseleaf and having a go with everything coming out of my mind. Sure, doing the same by typing into a Word document is far more productive and it keeps up with my ever-shifting thought process to the point I can simply delete and start over or just get it all out there and then tweak until I'm content.

You can't necessarily do that writing by hand. In fact, I'm sure most of you writers can open up old files of long-ago (or even recent) handwritten stories, poems and articles and marvel at all the scratch marks and sloppy, slanted lettering which you and only you can possibly decipher.

That being said, I still relish the opportunity to spread open some actual paper and roll out the words. I know, I'm not doing my bit to go green, but I do recycle religiously and keep eco friendly when I'm out and about. Yeah, iPads are as portable as spiral notebooks and nowadays you look primitive if you're using the latter to write with, but you know what? Send it back to the primitive, eh? The tightening up of wrists and pen calluses are badges of honor if you prefer to jot pages of prose before you set it to type.

I spent my lunch break today happily in creation mode for the next book project after "Saved by Zero" is officially in the can, and while I slurped on Asian noodles, I let the pen run wild on a small stack of printer paper, filling them up on both sides. I surrendered to the beseeching flow from my quick-scribbling hand and Lord, did it feel good. On my break, I'd written nine pages by hand and though nobody else in my office can relate to how edifying that feels, I quietly fist-pumped to myself. After all, a good writer can be comfortable with both a pen and a keyboard.

A good writer can let it loose on a park bench, under a tree, or at an empty conference room desk with pen and paper before transcribing it all onto the computer. It's always good to get those initial feelings out however they may be captured, but it's even better when you've worked just a hair extra to hammer out the words that will later be refined into something magical. Sweat, neck crinks and wrist ticks remind you you're alive.

Even better to be a live writer.


  1. I seemed to have moved through a portal and am now creating first drafts on the WP. Machines always got in the way of first drafts, so it was invariably pencil to paper first. Now I'm not sure I can go back. I hope so. Except for poetry...a poem still seems to require letting the lead out.

  2. Good parting shot, Crosby! I know I do 90% of my writing work on the processor. Nature of the beast and I like to be productive when I have those precious minutes to myself. It's to the point it almost feels foreign to be handwriting, but it also feels incredible, albeit incredibly frustrating when your hand cannot keep up with the words dumping around of your mind in creation mode.