Pen is mightier than the cursor

Hand Holding Pen

No tablets for me thanks – a pen will do just fine. (Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I find it highly ironic that I’m writing this post.

About the virtues of traditional pen-on-paper writing over digital content.

Because I’m blogging.

And my avatar picture is of me doodling away on my phone.

But I do love to write with a pen…on paper.

I’m surrounded by notes and my notebook that sits a mere inches away from my left elbow is covered in my silly scrawl. I was inspired to write this post from this article in The New York Times, a publication that has actually pushed me to improve the quality of my writing. The article simply expands on why the pen and paper (and traditional books) still have a role in society today. This article didn’t surprise me at all. I used to work at a technology company (where everyone sat in front of computers) yet there was paper abound. How did I know this? I ordered the paper!

Whether it’s because it’s a force of habit or business process, there is something so grounding about holding a piece of paper in your hands. I like scanning the document, taking in the font, the spacing, the information architecture (if any) and just breathing in the words. Quoted in the article, Richard Harper comments that real books and paper help people “better understand the geography of the argument contained within.” That is not to say that you can’t do this online, but it’s harder to gauge the mental battle you’re in if you’re only on page 3 of 10 (and how many pages are ads?). I completely agree with this point. If I am presented with a one page document, I can immediately see how the writer has structured their prose and how they would like me to approach it. They’ve laid out the number of arguments/points they would like to make in clearly defined paragraphs and by the end, I’m ready to see how it all wraps up in their conclusion. As an avid cook, I love cookbooks and having them around. I like that the pages get mussed up with batter splatter or have been stained by sauce – it shows use, failures and successes. An electronic cookbook (computer or phone) just seems to be too…cumbersome. It may seem like it should be more straightforward, but I’m constantly waking up my device, scrolling or wiping down my fingers to prevent smudges. With a cookbook – the pages invite me to mess them up with my dirty fingers; there’s no need to ‘refresh’ and any scanning I need to do can be done with the flick of a page or eye. Yes, it may take up more counter space, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to ensure that any technological troubles do not conflict with the outcome of my souffle.

As for writing with a pen – to me, there is nothing more cathartic. For me, as I write, the ideas in my head are allowed to mature. My quick fingers on a keyboard seem to push out my ideas rather than coax them – and the blinking cursor does nothing but stress me out. But a pen moves slower and allows my thoughts to formulate more cohesively and as I take the time to finish one word, it gives me that split second to formulate a way to end the sentence. My pen and my mind move at the same pace and allows me to see the whole picture at once. I can make quick notes in an instant on paper, whereas while typing, I must break away my right hand to reach for my mouse. Emphasis can be quickly made by hand – smaller font imbues a subnote unlike their bolded and underlined counterparts which demand more immediate attention. My written piece is instantly given more personality – unlike online prose which can seem so monotonous and repetitive (from the writer’s perspective!).

So it makes me sad that cursive writing is a lost art. That letter writing is seen as quaint and dated. That writing notes in class can seem inefficient. I’ll leave the new techno-gadgets to the younger kids – I’ll keep my Uniball next to me, waiting to help me bring my next great idea to life.

 

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Categories: Meditations

Author:bainvancouver

Communications specialist by day, baker/cook/triathlete/dog-owner by night. I blog about my adventures inside and outside my kitchen. Come take a look - no big whoop!

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