The Art of Writing (Analog vs Digital)

Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin on writing--totally unrelated to this post, but thought I'd share it.
Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin on writing--totally unrelated to this post, but thought I'd share the chuckles.

The art of writing. A beautiful and ancient art which has been one of the most important technologies in modern society. The ability for information to become transcribed and shared with the masses has transformed society from being a verbal one into a written one. Information-sharing aside, it is also one of the most sacred ways in which an individual can shield him or herself from the outside world and meditate on his or her thoughts alone—in peace.

I have started to write more regularly since graduating and one question has bothered me for quite a while: is it better to write on a computer or on a pen-and-pad?

Before I continue to write, I am going to put this into stone. Neither are better. They both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Writing on the computer definitely has many advantages. On a computer, one is able to type quickly and efficiently, which can be easily posted to a blog or site in mere seconds. Convenience is definitely the key word here. Furthermore, I have noticed that I am able to type as quickly (if not quicker) than I can think—which allows for an easy stream of consciousness to flow into my digital text.

Then comes along writing on a paper-and-pad. Old, boring, out-of-fashion, passé. I am sure there are still many writers out there who prefer to write primarily on paper, but new and more “hip” online writing platforms are much more attractive such as WordPress, Blogger, and the new Tumblr.

Being a “digital native,” I have always wondered why people would spend the extra time to write on a pen and pad which I viewed as “slow and inefficient.” One of my rationales was, “If you are going to write something on paper, you will probably have to re-type it up on the computer anyways. Might as well cut out that unnecessary step, and just type everything up on the computer in the first place.”

Cindy first encouraged me to write on paper regularly, in the form of a journal. She purchased me a journal (one of my favorite presents of all time—thanks Cindy!) and encouraged me to write in it daily. Cindy has always been an avid journaler, and highly recommended me the practice.

At first I was a bit hesitant. Several times in my life I have vowed to keep a consistent journal, but never wrote any entries after the 3rd or 4th day. I know that if I go back home, I can find mounds of dusty old journals that were eager for me to write in, but were left neglected. However around the time that Cindy got me the journal, I began a writing class at UCLA in which we were mandated to keep a daily journal. We were told that we could write anything we wanted and how much ever we wanted, as long as it was consistent. Having this requirement was the first impetus that got me to start writing consistently. However over time, I began to enjoy the practice, and I can proudly say that I have almost filled up this journal full of text (I originally wrote this blog entry into my journal, and now I am typing it up to share with you guys all online).

There is something magical about writing in a paper-bound notebook which I cannot quite put into words. The feeling of my pen gliding across the page, feeling the subtle yet firm texture of the paper. Every once in a while my hand cramps up because I am still much more accustomed to typing on the computer than writing for long periods of times. (Pauses to massage hands).

I feel that the biggest advantage of writing on paper rather than typing on the computer is that there are much fewer distractions. Sure when you’re writing on paper, you might have an annoying roommate bothering you or some noises from outside, but you won’t have a blinking Gmail icon, blogs, or sites nagging for your attention. As I am writing this, my two dual-screen monitors sitting on my table are turned off, and they look a bit lonely. It is as they are begging me, “Come on Eric—turn me on. Just for a minute. It will just take a second, I swear.” I ignore their little pleas of attention and go back to my writing.

I look at my handwriting and although it is scrawled and barely legible, it has character. My character. A piece of myself which is transmitted onto the page. It has soul, character. Each character looks different. Sure, there are some of my own words that I cannot make out quite clearly, but merely studying the gestures of my strokes can make illegible words legible.

I can hear the etching sounds of my pen’s fine metal tip scratching against the paper. In the background, I can hear the crickets chirping outside and the sound of an occasional car passing by. I feel part of the “real world,” rather than the “false” online one.

Sure the irony is that after I am done with this, I will type it up and post it to my WordPress blog for all to see (what I am doing right now). A bit contradictory huh, that I am advocating for more analog means of writing while showing the negatives of writing digitally?

Not quite.

Although I am advocating for the practice of writing one’s thoughts down into text, the online blogosphere is a wonderful place to read the original ideas of others and build a support system of friends and acquaintances. The advent of the internet has democratized information which allows anybody to share his or her thoughts with the rest of the world. You could potentially have your ideas broadcasted to millions of viewers, without having to publish in a popular newspaper or magazine. Now with a few clicks and a bit of patience, anybody could become a popular and well-read writer.

Therefore I advocate you to try the practice of not only regularly writing, but doing it in a paper-back journal. There is nothing else in the world quite like it.

An Online Turned Offline Encounter

A few days back, I was able to have the great pleasure of meeting Cydney Alexis over at Material Lives in person. The way that we first met on the internet was quite fascinating.

Cydney works over at the Admissions department in the University of Madison-Wisconsin, and she happened to have a photo intern working for her who heard about my street photography from a photography professor. Cydney’s intern then went to my site and liked the template that I was using, and suggested to Cydney that they use a similar style for their blog. Cydney then checked out my photography, and enjoyed my images, and emailed me inquiring about how much I charged for my prints. I still have the email stored in my Gmail account:

Thu, Jul 30, 2009

Eric–

I am sure I cannot afford one of your photographs, but I thought I’d inquire anyway–how much do you tend to sell them for? They are just gorgeous.

Best,

Cydney

Upon hearing such kind work about my photography, I was quite touched and offered to send her a few prints (free of charge). After sending her the images, she was extremely gracious and after that we hit it off. We found out that both of us had interests in audiobooks, photography, as well as blogging. She recommended me a bunch of books, one of them being Kafka on the Shore, written by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Over the year, we were able to keep in touch via our blogs as well as through email.

This summer my girlfriend Cindy went to the University of Madison-Wisconsin to take a Vietnamese-intensive program called SEASSI for the summer. I promised her that I would visit, and before I left Cydney came to mind. I wasn’t 100% whether Cydney was in Madison or some other city, so I shot her a message and got in contact with her. After confirming that she indeed was in Madison, we arranged to meet in person (for the first time) sometime during the week.

After exchanging phone numbers, we arranged to have dinner together, along with Cindy and another friend. We met up and ended up eating at Dotty’s Dumplings, one of the favorite local restaurants. Over some amazing fried cheese curds, chili-cheese fries, and hamburgers, we talked for the first time in person and had a wonderful time, grabbing some amazing Gelato afterwards.

I recall when I told my other friends that I was going to meet a friend that I only knew online, they gave me curious looks. I have to admit, there have been times that I have met people online in the “real world” and was quite shocked that their offline persona was the exact opposite of their online persona. Not only that, but some people even had deceiving online profile pictures which looked nothing like themselves in real life.

The thought of two people meeting perchance via the internet, nearly half a country apart and meeting in person and eating dinner together is quite an unusual encounter. Such things would have never been possible even a few decades ago. However Cydney’s and my online turned offline encounter is a true testament on how the internet is closing the geographical gap in the world and bringing people closer together.

Also in the case of Cydney and I, meeting in person for the first time was quite natural and not awkward at all. I had never seen a clear photo of Cydney, and wasn’t 100% sure what she exactly looked like. Upon meeting her in person, I found out that she dressed quite trendy, and even rocked a sweet tattoo on her shoulder. Also while talking in person, it was interesting that we had so much to talk about, when referring to one another’s lives via our blogs or based on the comments we would leave one another. I felt that I grew to know her quite well on the internet, and nothing about her life truly caught me off guard when meeting her offline.

However at the same time, I still feel that it is important to make the point that online interaction could never replace offline interaction. Even though I did know a great deal about Cydney through the internet, the way in which we were able to interact in real life brought an entirely new type of energy. Through the laughs, tasty food, and good conversation we were able to connect to an extent which could never be possibly recreated online. However with the permeation of online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft, The Sims Online, as well as Second Life, how close can online interaction replicate offline interaction?

Anyways, I still have a few days left in Wisconsin and I should be able to meet Cydney at least once more. And sorry Cydney– I haven’t been able to upload our photos yet, hopefully they will be up soon!

edit: here are the photos

Me and Cydney
Me and Cydney
Deep Fried Cheese Curds--mmmmmm
Deep Fried Cheese Curds--mmmmmm
Chili Cheese Fries
Chili Cheese Fries