Here’s a good illustration on what I consider one of the great fringe benefits of writing with a pen: platform-independent record permanence.
At that link, you can download a folder with the collected papers of Delia Derbyshire, the English musician who came up with the electronic version of the original Dr. Who theme. It contains letters, unpublished sheet music, and copious amounts of sketches and notes, and it’s an interesting insight into one particular creative mind.
I’ve been writing longhand for over a year now. I only use the computer for the second draft, and for non-fiction. My fiction brain seems to have rewired itself to the slower, but more elaborate writing style that comes with putting a pen to paper. (And there really is a difference–in longhand, I think about the sentence just a bit longer, and the resulting work is tighter and less wordy than the stuff I write on the computer.) Now, I don’t harbor conceits about becoming the world’s preeminent SF author, and having people bid my handwritten drafts up to ridiculous amounts after I’m dead. (Not that I’d terribly mind all of that, mind you, but I don’t have that kind of ego just yet.) I’m not even writing longhand primarily because it leaves a record, but because the workflow suits me better, and because it’s physically more pleasant than hacking away at a computer keyboard.
No, what I like is the idea of my kids and grand-kids being able to pull those notebooks off the bookshelf in fifty years, being able to figure out what made the old man tick, and to understand how and what he thought when he did what he did. I don’t just write the first draft by hand, I also write down all my notes as I put the novel together. For my current novel, for example, I have a sort of companion notebook with sketches, tables, character notes, diagrams, lists, and all kinds of snippets that won’t ever make their way directly into the novel. Put that notebook with the handwritten first draft, with its corrections and crossed-out paragraphs, and you’ll be able to get a really good idea of the evolution of the whole story from start to finish–what kind of ideas I was tossing around, which ones I expanded, which ones I dismissed, and so on. They won’t need to find a computer system in 2060 that can read file formats and media from 2010–all they’ll have to do is take the bound notebook off the shelf, open it, and start reading.
(Yes, I know that Ms. Derbyshire’s papers are out there in electronic form, which seems to undermine the point of my little essay, but the fact remains that there were papers to be scanned and digitized.)
As I said, that’s not the main reason why I write by hand, but it certainly is a pleasing possible fringe benefit. And if I end up famous enough that someone is willing to buy those drafts off my grandkids after I’m gone, and they’ll be able to buy themselves a pair of loaded 2061-model Government Motors HydroVettes, they will be thankful for the day Opa switched to ink and paper for his first drafts and notes.