A few weeks back I read a pretty interesting piece in Psychology Today that highlights the importance of handwriting in the digital age. That’s a lofty topic, and I won’t digest the essence of the piece beyond that point, but I feel it’s something all writers should read and think about.
Needless to say, we live in a world that inundates us at every angle with a screen. More than ever before we have the ability to do almost anything we want with most of the devices we have access to. This includes writing. It’s possible now to write on our phones and then sync that work with what we have on our computers. It’s hard to deny the efficiency of this process.
But it doesn’t mean that everything needs to be written on a device with a screen. There’s still value, I feel, in the analogue way of writing, longhand, in a notebook. And, as the Psychology Today piece notes, there is a direct stimulation to the brain when you actually write this way.
I tend to hold myself back thinking there’s one right way to do something, when that’s rarely ever the case. Such as it is with writing — be it scribbling longhand with a pen or tapping away at the keys.
But it’s important to understand that journaling with a pen is not the same as journaling on a laptop. Neither is better or worse than the other. But if a main piece of writing (such as a book or an article or a blog or anything of that nature) is done with a keyboard, I don’t believe putting ideas that flow into that work onto a page will at all slow the process down. It more likely will fuel it, and give it a different and powerful form of energy. Writing longhand is a conversation with your notebook. The mouthpiece is the pen (or pencil or chalk or crayon or whatever it is you find helpful).
And regardless of the approach, I do welcome and appreciate writing on a computer. I love it, and enjoy working on my laptop. I love typing away and have been fortunate enough to become a pretty competent typist over the years. It carries for me a sort of rhythm, not at all unlike playing an actual musical instrument. I write articles and blogs on my laptop, and most of the fiction I’ve written, and will write, has been done on the computer.
But alongside all of that, when I want to get messy (or when I want to pour my paint-splattered mind onto the page), I open the actual pages of my worklog (i.e., journal i.e. logbook i.e. notebook) and start writing away.
Lists. Sketches. Notes. Mind maps. Thoughts. Affirmations. Goals.
These days, I personally use a composition-style notebook (the bagasse ones from Staples, to be specific) for my main logbook and journal. I’ve implemented a Bullet Journal-style approach, which I’ve customized a bit, because I don’t really follow all the Bullet Journal “rules.”
I’m also experimenting with smaller notebooks (currently using a stack of Moleskine cashiers journals) for specific projects — at the moment, my manifesto. I’ll do the same thing with another small journal for my novel, which will be what I’m working on after the manifesto is done and into the world. I’m not talking about creating character bibles or anything like that (though these little notebooks will undoubtedly contain character-related details), this is more of a set of field notes that I hope will guide me through these specific works of writing. Indeed, if the book or project warrants it, I’ll pull together several small notebooks as needed for a project (which actually makes more sense, now that I write this out).
The mind is a myriad of patterns and there’s a lot of beautiful value in filling page after page with ink, as much as there is filling page after page with text on a screen. They both matter, and complement one another.
And although it’s easy to look at a paper notebook as a primitive “device” in this day and age, analogue itself is not a primitive means of writing. It is a natural form of it.
So, use the pen, I say. Scribble and scratch away. Then move to the computer and play us a song in the key of words.
One additional perk to the paper notebook: it has unlimited battery life.