Pen and Paper vs. the Laptop

This past week my experiment in blogging had come to a standstill.  This is in part to a) an EXTREMELY busy work schedule and b) lethargy on my part.

At least I can say that this week of blog neglect has allowed me to make an observation about  my current writing preferences.  Which is that I have shifted to preferring the computer over the old standby of pen and paper.  And this bothers me.

Ever since I can remember, back to the fourth grade when I completed my first full “research” project on a specific country (which was essentially reporting facts and figures about East Germany), I always preferred to sketch out and write my rough drafts by hand.  Resumes, poems, project plans, term papers, etc… I couldn’t formulate a thought unless I had jotted it down on paper first. Sitting in front of a computer (and actually a word processor back in the day) would create instant writer’s block for me.

Now that I’ve started to blog in addition to keeping a daily writing schedule, I find the problem is reverse for blog posts. I seem to draw a blank when sitting down with a pen and fresh pad of paper, yet have no problem sitting with WordPress open and typing up something within an hour.

However, when it comes to my daily writing exercises, I can easily write up to 4 pages of material within a 20 minute period. It is as though my brain is separating blog writing from my other writing.

Why does this bother me? Aside from the fact that it is a rapid change in habit, I’m fearing that perhaps my blog writing is becoming uninspired in such a short amount of time.

Lately, sitting in front of my spiral bound stack of white college ruled lined paper with medium point black ink pen in hand, the callous on the side of the middle finger on my left hand begins to ache a little. An instant energy drain is initiated and I can feel the pep and vigor slowly draining out through my head, hands and feet.  Keep in mind this is usually before I’ve begun my daily writing exercise so it is not as though I’ve already been writing by hand.

Another reason this bothers me is because I’ve always been told in my English courses and writing workshops that writing by hand does more to stimulate creativity than typing.  I always just accepted this factoid, but I recently decided to investigate this a little further.

Like most people with not enough waking hours to accomplish everything, I turned to Google. Several articles and sources turned up under “better to write by hand or computer”.  Glancing through some of the actual studies conducted, the reasons cited in favor of writing by hand include:

  • Writing by hand focuses your attention on one physical space (the paper) while typing splits your attention between the keyboard and the screen.
  • Writing by hand is a slower process, giving you more time to really pay attention to your selection of words and formulation of ideas. This engages the part of your brain that emphasizes learning but typing does not strongly engage this part of the brain.
  • There is more of a physical connection with your words when you write by hand versus typing.

So, it does appear there is some merit to the idea that writing by hand does stimulate your brain and creativity more so than typing.

Back to my situation. Perhaps I’m over-thinking this. After all, I haven’t given up writing by hand completely. It is just that I find it much faster and more convenient to prepare blog posts on the computer. I’ve come to the conclusion that my normal process of writing by hand maintains my creative flow and makes up for the increased time I’ve spent drafting blog entries on my laptop.

But, it led me to wonder if any other writers out there have spent as much time as I have on whether they should be writing by hand or if their time is better spent drafting everything on the computer?

So, to all you writers out there  – what is your preference? Writing by hand or typing on the computer?

Sources: 
Why the Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard
Cognitive Differences Between Writing by Hand & on the Computer
Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing
The Phenomenology of Writing by Hand
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6 thoughts on “Pen and Paper vs. the Laptop

  1. You worry too much. I loved Pen and Paper, I also loved my typewriter, and now I love my computer. Its much faster, cleaner, and it doesn’t impair my creativity. I makes notes on paper when my computer isn’t at hand, that’s all. It works fine. Technology and writing belong together. Just write, don’t worry!

    • LOL – thanks for the reality check. I do worry too much! I guess I was just always such a die hard fan of writing by hand first and I’m now getting on board with using technology to my advantage for writing purposes. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I really struggle with pen-and-paper writing now. I use it to capture ideas or jot notes for writing projects, but to actually try to compose a story, an article or a blog post by hand? Not sure if I still could. My brain has learned to think in sync with my fingers on a keyboard, for better or for worse. And for the most part I’m okay with that, because if I did write it by hand, then I’d still have to transcribe it to a computer to do anything further with it, and that’s an extra step I don’t always have time to take. But I DO wish I could get more done with pen-and-paper when I can’t get to a computer – sometimes it feels like I can’t create without my keyboard crutch.

    • See – I think I’m starting to get to that point. I always felt my paper and pen were my crutches but now I’m finding that it’s more an accessory to have on me if I have 10 spare minutes during lunch or while out and about. Writing by hand seems to be more of exercise type of writing – it’s what gets me to tinker with thoughts/ ideas for pieces. But when I’m ready to really formulate a piece I’m turning to the computer more and more.

      In 20 years this discussion will be a moot point anyways. Pretty soon you’ll be able to write your novel on your cell phone – or dictate it.

      I’m not a scientist, but with the progress of technological advances, I’m wondering if some of the cognitive benefits cited by these studies will be replaced or shift to other activities.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this, too, and have a blog post in the works about it. I grew up with pen and paper, never had a typewriter, and had limited acces to a computer until about, oh, 1998, I guess. And that was about the time I wasn’t writing much. Then I got back into it, and as much as I wanted to write on paper, it just seemed so…wasteful. A waste of paper, of money for the pens and notebooks I prefered, a waste of TIME, because it took longer and *then* I had to retype everything *into* the computer. But for some reason, with that writing workshop I took a couple of weeks ago, I really felt the pen and paper again. I had taken my computer to class too, but I felt much more at ease writing by hand. And I’ve kept at it since then, and I really feel that it’s helped free my mind.

    Now when it comes to blogging, oddly enough, I prefer to write it out in MS Word and then copy/paste into wordpress. I just feel much more comfortable editing and such that way. Not sure what the difference is, other than the fact that I don’t have to be online to do it, but there you go.

  4. I’m just so glad I’m not the only one out there going back and forth between writing by hand and writing by computer. Writing instructors really do seem to advocate writing by hand.

    It is strange though – not only is composing blog posts on the computer from scratch much more convenient for me, but the ideas flow much more organically.

    I definitely look forward to your future blog post on this subject.

¡Dígame!

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