Steve Hansen: Writers vary on how, what they write about

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By Steve Hansen
Former QCS Managing Editor

Serious writers vary in where, how and on what they etch their thoughts into letters.

Older writers and a surprising number of younger ones actually produce their work in longhand, even in the age of word processing.

As a young writer in Paris, Ernest Hemingway would find a seat in a local café and pencil first drafts onto cheap paper while consuming local bread and wines of varying quality.

Lynn Moncus, whose column became a Quay County Sun institution, often composed her commentaries and remembrances in a booth at the Kix on 66 restaurant in Tucumcari.

The poet Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive who penciled poetry onto small slips of paper while on afternoon walks.

Thomas Wolfe (“Look Homeward, Angel,” “You Can’t Go Home Again”) poured out torrents of words from a typewriter perched atop his refrigerator. But then, Wolfe was 7-feet tall. That also meant he wrote standing up.

Truman Capote did the opposite, lying down to compose his novels in longhand.

When he wrote “On the Road,” his best-known work, Jack Kerouac taped together long sheets of copy paper, which used to come on rolls, and typed the novel onto a continuous scroll.

His opposite number is Vladimir Nabokov, author of  “Lolita,” who wrote in pencil on index cards.

Stephen King (“Salem’s Lot,” “The Shining”) switched from typing to a fountain pen after an accident made using a word processor painful. He found that the pen made him think a little more before committing words to paper.

J.K. Rowling scrawled out the Harry Potter series using a ball-point pen on loose-leaf paper.

Journalists generally need a keyboard to hammer out all drafts.

When you write in a hurry you edit as you go, word processors make it easy to switch paragraphs, restate sentences and cut words that get in the way.

I haven’t written in longhand for years, except short lists on sticky-notes. I use a computer while sitting in an office.

What’s more important, however, is how often and how much you write.

In my case, the answer is easy but painful to admit: Not enough.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:

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