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When writing posts or articles that are to appear on web pages using programs such as LyX or WordPress it probably seems natural to simply start doing so directly, using the native editor of the program in question. I do this this if I’m writing a fairly short piece, perhaps one or two paragraphs. But if it’s a longer or more complicated text I prefer to do it in a more roundabout way, starting in Vim and pasting the material into LyX, WordPress or whatever later. (The exception is when I’m composing emails, but that’s because I have Mutt set up to use Vim as editor.)
This may seem a little eccentric but I’ve always found it makes my life easier. I’ve been using Vim for many years and it’s mostly second nature to me now. I can think as I’m writing, make quick changes – delete, add, move words, sentences, whole paragraphs – easily and quickly. I can instantly reverse changes I’ve made and undo those changes instantly as well. At the end I can do a spell check to look for typos.
The standard editors supplied by the programs allow most of this too, of course, but a good deal less intuitively. It’s more difficult to separate the words you writing from you are writing from how they are going to appear on screen or on the page. But these are different things.
Writers are often asked whether they write in longhand or directly on the keyboard. People who write in longhand often say that physically shaping the words gives them a sense of creativity and immediacy that is missing if they type at the keyboard. It’s tempting to think that there may be something of an artistic snobbery element at work here, but that’s probably unfair; I think many people genuinely feel this sense of satisfaction in writing longhand.
I can understand this feeling but I don’t share it, perhaps because I associate handwriting with punishment. My handwriting was always a subject of criticism in my early school years, and later, minor infringement of rules was penalised by the requirement to write a number pages of script – always on blue paper, which had to be requested from one’s housemaster. This may well explain my dislike of writing by hand now. Anyway,there is good literary precedent for my view; two renowned authors, Henry James and Winston Churchill, used to dictate their books, although this is not something I’d want to do myself.
Whatever the reason, I find I write better and more fluently at the keyboard. At least for me, writing in this way probably does what writing longhand does for many others.