Other writers and a change in the way he actually wrote stuff helped. Neil Gaiman started writing novels longhand in the ‘90s, with Stardust. When Hill was having trouble getting words on the page, Gaiman told him to pick up a literal pen.
“Neil suggested I try writing first drafts longhand. Suddenly, writing was freeing. I love that part of the day where I’m away from the internet and the phone, and I put on my record – a real record, a vinyl record, not the iPod; lately it’s been the Decemberists – and I write longhand. I’ll write notes to myself in the margins and I’ll write one sentence and then I’ll rewrite the sentence above it. Trying out different sounds. It just feels so much more freeing than sitting there at the computer.”
It’s not just the distractions of Twitter and the internet that stemmed the workflow. The computer conspires to hide how much work you’ve done, Hill says; it deprives you of the tiny checkpoints where you get some sense of achievement.
“You’re always just looking at the same screen instead of looking at eight pages where you’re like, ‘I wrote this today.’ I think there’s a physical satisfaction in seeing the ink on the page.
“I also think – and I’ve seen some studies to suggest this is true – that the physical act of shaping letters with your hand is like an artistic act that shuts off the critical sensor in your brain. The part of you that’s a critic is focused on the words on the page, getting the letters right instead of saying, ‘Oh, that’s a stupid sentence.'”
The robe volante, or flowing robe, featured by Watteau at the center of his painting L'Enseigne de Gersaint of 1721, gave freedom and movement to the new fashion. In fact, it was not the style of gown that was new, but the use to which it was put. Worn over the boned bodice and petticoat, it had previously been worn only informally, in the privacy of the boudoir or bedroom, although its unwaisted shape sometimes made it the choice of pregnant women to disguise their condition (this, at any rate, was how it was worn by Madame de Montespan, whose little ruse fooled nobody: as soon as she appeared in the gown, the whole court realised immediately the nature of the happy event in prospect for the king’s favorite mistress).