I’m no techno Luddite; I carry my iPhone and iPad everywhere and swear by a host of apps to help me get things done on a daily basis. But, when I want to be truly creative, I always go back to pen and paper.
Like the resurgence of vinyl as a punky two-fingered salute to the soulless ubiquity of digital music, analogue productivity methods have been one of big successes of recent years. From the hipster PDA meme that did the rounds a couple of years ago, to Ryder Carroll’s brilliantly simple Bullet Journal hack; there’s been an explosion of anti-electronic ways of getting things done for those growing tired of our increased dependence on technology.
Me? I’m not going to throw my laptop in the river just yet; I’ve experimented with managing my life with a Moleskine and a gel pen, but the ease of going digital far outstrips the hipster cool of whipping a Hemmingway-esque notebook out my back pocket in a meeting. When it comes to planning and creativity, though, I’m yet to find anything that outperforms an open mind and a blank sheet of paper.
The Physicality Of Pen and Paper Lets Me Truly Connect With My Thoughts
Writing on a tablet or laptop always makes me feel disconnected from my words. It’s as if there’s a robot playing back my thoughts in a sterile, unimaginative way. I’ve tried countless apps and methods to make it more fluid, but I haven’t found anything that beats a pen and paper for properly capturing my thoughts.
Whether it’s the familiarity of my own handwriting, or a subconscious attempt to map out the workings of my mind, writing on paper feels fluid, organic and utterly personal. All my best work has been done with a pen in my hand.
With Analogue There Are No Restrictions
The problem with even the simplest writing app, no matter how minimal, is you’re tied into the workflow ideas of the person who programmed it. There are some digital tools that are close to being a blank canvas for your thoughts (Drafts, Trello and Daedalus for starters), but can they really be better than a blank sheet?
I’m a huge fan of mind-mapping as a way to consolidate my ideas; by drawing them out freehand with coloured pens, highlighters and pencils, I can free them from my mind and really focus on what’s important. Yes, I’ll turn them into digitised project plans, but the initial gestation always happens on paper. I’ve tried to do it on a computer, but it doesn’t feel the same.
Analogue Has A Sense Of Permanence That Digital Doesn’t
I’ve been using computers to write my final drafts since I was a university student in the late nineties. I must’ve typed up millions of words in essays, articles, blog posts and reviews, but my digital archive only goes back as far as the last time I cleared out my hard-drive. The only writing I’ve ever kept is in notebooks, journals and files of magazine clippings.
Digital, for all it’s simplicity, feels throwaway. There’s something far more permanent about putting pen to paper instead of fingers to keyboard. With everything stored in the cloud, there’s a sense that nothing actually exists anymore. Like Frank Skinner pointed out in a recent episode of Room 101, the Nazis would have seemed far less intimidating deleting ePub documents instead of burning books.
What do you think? Does pen and paper still have an important role in our increasingly digitised world? Let me know in the comments.