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?
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.