As I sought inspiration for this week’s post, my eye went to the stuff on my desk at home. Besides my electronic stuff (PC, iPhone, iPad), I realized I have a remarkable number of items that are non-digital: journal, drawing journal, sketchpad, adult coloring books and regular notebooks. I also thought back to a phone call I had earlier this week with our Salesforce implementer during which I semi-apologized that I’m drawing screenshots for him by hand. (Additionally, I still wireframe my websites with pencil and paper.)
With the speed and ease of a keyboard, why do I still write and draw the “old-fashioned” way? I thought this question interesting enough to research and here’s what I’ve learned. (P.S. The irony that I’m typing this post instead of writing it longhand is not lost on me. 🙂 )
We process information more deeply when taking notes by hand. I found this study that examined the memory and retention of students taking notes on a laptop vs. typing notes on a laptop. They found that laptop notes tended to be transcriptions of the content (shallow brain processing) and handwritten notes caused the learners to re-frame the concepts before applying pen to paper (deep brain processing).
We are less prone to distractions when writing or drawing by hand. Well, that certainly makes sense. When you write or draw on a digital device, it’s really easy to pop open a browser or app to check social media feeds, surf the Internet or check the weather. Notepads and sketchbooks have no such distractions available.
We have an emotional connection to our content when we use pen and paper. In a New York Times article, architect Michael Graves stated “Our physical and mental interactions with drawings are formative acts. In a handmade drawing, whether on an electronic tablet or on paper, there are intonations, traces of intentions and speculation. This is not unlike the way a musician might intone a note or how a riff in jazz would be understood subliminally and put a smile on your face.”
I found references to writers like Truman Capote who always wrote longhand as part of their creative process, and naturally I thought “well, yes, but he was born in 1924 so he didn’t grow up with technology.” But it turns out that there are modern writers and creators still use pen and paper:
- Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club author) loves the act of physical writing, preferring to do first drafts longhand.
- Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction director) calls longhand writing his creative “ritual.”
- J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series author) originally started writing longhand because she couldn’t afford a typewriter, but continues the practice as part of her process, stating “Writing longhand, the work feels very clean and satisfying to me…. There just seems to be a lot less second-guessing while writing longhand and that is awesome.”
On a final note, I always feel it’s important to examine the opposing position, so I located a post by a freelancer named Zoe Annabel entitled “4 Ways Typing is Better than Writing” where she states that writing is painful and requires you to actually learn spelling and punctuation, whereas typing is efficient and faster. All good points as well.
What do you think? Do you still write and draw on paper or do you love your keyboard? Feel free to tweet your thoughts to me at @cindy_leonard.