When you don't know exactly what you want to say you might want to reach for a pen first
"Why should I take typing? I'm not going to be a secretary after I graduate.": Me in high school.... on an electric typewriter and before the advent of the personal computer.
These days, I prefer to type for convenience but I do see the appeal of still using the written word (which I do in my journaling)
I always prefer paper and pen - especially when working out a problem or throwing down random thoughts. Computers are great for getting the bulk down, editing and smoothing - but you can beat the original!
The pen is indeed mightier than the keyboard, but I'm like you. I've shifted a bit to using the keyboard rather than the pen. I've indulged myself a bit with pens, too. I have this fountain pen. An achingly beautiful Visconti, but I've not picked it up much lately.
I think I will, now that you've argued that I should. I wrote a little on the topic, too, back when we were hiding from Rona: https://markdelong.me/2020/04/21/screen-played/
Great piece, Mark. As a fellow tech worker I appreciated how you describe the business and its underpinnings.
I still do a lot of longhand writing for drafts but between my day job (which requires a variety of xml related implements) and doing stuff like NaNoWriMo in the past, I’m equally comfortable with writing on a keyboard for long stretches... but I don’t enjoy it as much as writing longhand.
Have you read Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird, where she writes about shitty first drafts? It's a great book.
Despite my sometimes poor penmanship, I write all my newsletter essays by hand first. It forces me to go slow, which I think is a virtue and as well, I can write anywhere (at my desk, outside, on a subway or train, at a cafe or coffee shop, on the couch, wherever) which makes it easier for me and brings a sense of freedom to the need to write everyday. I also think there's a romance to it - it connects me, however tangentially, to a tradition of writing embraced by people like Robert A. Caro (who I revere). In short, it makes what I am doing seem legit.
I agree that writing by hand can be much more powerful than writing on a device. To me there's something in the act of putting pen to paper that allows me to retain more of what I jot down. Also like that idea of scratching as a kind a pre-workout to get the creative juices flowing. Thanks for another great article Mark!
I, for one, gave up writing with a pen so long ago that I no longer can. At least without my hand cramping up every few minutes. Anyone else have this problem?
I use analog tools for cleaning my mind e.g. a free form “brain dump” or a mind map, Venn diagram or the classic “Plus and Minus” chart. I also love handwriting cursive for quotations or personal thoughts I want to save in a notebook or on index cards. After that, I usually keyboard everything else into a Word doc or Notes app, though I dislike the act of typing.
Great article Mark.
I start all my writing with pen and paper first. Getting away from the computer allows me to come up with better ideas. Otherwise, there is pressure on me. I can concentrate on what it is I'm trying to accomplish. Then I'll type it into the laptop or desktop PC and make my edits, additions, and deletions.
I so agree, Mark, and well-said: I talk about exactly your point in Write it! How to get started: In Lesson 4 of my posts, here's what I say when I introduce a free-write: I do think that long hand on A2 paper or lined paper works the unconscious mind better —like dreaming and, yep, we’ll talk about sleeping soon. The unconscious mind—not the psychobabble unconscious— is where the invention happens. For your readers of these fab posts who need help getting started, try me! Hope this little bit of self-promotion is okay, Mark. Recommending your newsletter, too!
Mark, I agree that there’s no beating pen and paper, and also that there’s absolutely a place for the keyboard! It’s a matter of context. I make initial notes by hand, and then draft by hand. I find my flow better that way. But when I’m bashing those words into some kind of decent shape I need a keyboard.
I’ve been working on a post just lately about how I feel to have learned to touch-type. Funnily enough I’ve found it both a blessing and a curse!
Great post. Working on a post on similar lines but with a bit 'theory slant' and what using tech does to our minds. Once we have the tools and we use them too much, the way we think and function changes. Simplicity of the pen, if and when forgotten or made to seem ancient and obsolete will also delete a process of thinking that was slow, deliberate and in the long run helpful, because we could see the nuts and bolts of the process.
I so appreciate this helpful share from Mark about his creative process. I am not a writer but someone who always wished she could express herself well in writing. Maybe it is not too late.