Writing with a pen

In what is more of a news and updates kind of post (for which, read, ‘I have nothing intelligent to say this week’), I have been having fun writing with my digital pen.

It’s one of those totally amazing inventions – albeit in the eyes of only a very small percentage of the population!  If you don’t write, you are not going to care about what follows.  And if you do write but are happy to type, then you probably won’t care either.  But having now alienated almost everyone, I’ll tell you why I like it.  A lot.

Here it is: why I need a pen which writes with real ink on real paper but, by dint of some tech-y magic, ‘reads’ my handwriting, saves it as a digital file and then sends it to my computer when I plug in the USB cable.  Oh, and for good measure, my handwritten text is saved as a pdf and is fully searchable.  And all that is before you choose the option of converting the handwriting to text which can be dropped into Word or e-mail or anything else.  What is there not to like?  Even you Mac people can get in on the act (assuming you do boring things like words and not just sounds and pictures?!)

So, drum roll please…  Why I like my pen enough to blog about it!  🙂

Confession time.  I don’t ‘think’ on to computer screens.  I can only think sensible thoughts on to paper.

This is a rule to which I may recently have found the proverbial exception, since I do blog directly to the computer screen.  But I suppose we would have to agree that these are sensible thoughts if my blogging is to be an exception from the general rule, and sometimes I am not convinced of this.

Though many of you may not believe this, and indeed one of my lecturers who has now retired nearly fell off his chair when I said it(!), this rule means that all of my many essays have been handwritten – albeit sometimes in sections for the longer ones – and then copytyped by me afterwards.  In every case, without significant edits at the copytyping stage.

(Though a thought best not pursued, I often reflect on how much I miss my secretary, from back in those distant days when I actually earned money for what I wrote!)

I can tell: you think I’m crazy now, don’t you?  I can see that I am going to have to justify myself.  So here it is, and I hope that you might catch something of the essence of what I’m trying to say.  However, if I don’t succeed in conveying my thinking here, maybe you’ll let me put it down to the fact that I am trying and failing to ‘think’ directly on to the screen?!

Joking aside, paper invites me to creativity in a way with which the screen can never compete.  With typing, there is too much opportunity to edit as I write and so every 15-20 words, I am always casting my eye backwards, reviewing and revising the text.  Paper, on the other hand, only works when it’s not covered with hundreds of crossings-out and so, when I’m using paper, I am more disciplined in allowing myself to write freely without second-guessing, correcting, improving and titivating the text at every moment.

With the screen, then, there is no opportunity to discover that flow which is so satisfying when one really begins to write.  There is no passion to the writing because at every stage I am assessing it for its fitness for purpose, analysing and criticising my output before it is even ‘out and put’ on the page.  But paper…  With paper, she says dreamily, I would not have rewritten the first of these two paragraphs over and over before this later one made it on to the page.  I would have written the whole and then reread the whole and revised each paragraph in the light of the other.  I would have known what my end product was looking like; I would have had something to critique and play with.

Instead, I have wasted too much of my life even on this bit of text so far because the choice of constant editing afforded to me by typing has become, in the end, not the freedom for self-expression which it promises but a constraint and a hindrance to writing.

And so there you have it.  I need to write on paper.  I think better thoughts on paper.  I think more coherent thoughts on paper.  I don’t make typo errors on paper and then waste time correcting them.  And it’s not that I don’t edit on paper, just that I suspect that I may perhaps do so more intelligently, less as obsessive tinkering with a text which is largely unwritten and more as reflective refinings and revisions of a text which largely exists.

I like paper and I like pens and I don’t really like typing.  It’s just the way it is.  And, right now, when the only significant writing in my research involves the recording of what I read and thus, you could argue, no great need for fluent writing, I still would rather hold the book in one hand and write with the other than hold the book in one hand and type with only one hand!  (And don’t try to tell me about those mini-deckchairs for books: if you read fast-ish, they seem like more trouble than they are worth?! :))

So there it is.  I am one of the few who may ever want a digital pen: typing compromises my opportunity to experience the passion and the flow and the joy of writing so I need to use paper but, unlike most others who may fall into this category, I do also know how to use the technology to make this digital pen work hard for me…already I have automatic and searchable back-ups of my notes in both OneNote and LiveScribe (as well as all my paper copies), and it’s all been copied to a secure internet server in case of computer failure.

As I said, what’s not to like?  And that’s before I’ve even told you that this unassuming piece of technology also permits me to record audio at the same time as writing and then to play it back in a file called a pencast, which relives the notes exactly as they were captured (audio and writing visuals appearing in sync).  It’s almost enough to make me want to go back to lectures again and to get permission to try it out for real!

But I will not wax lyrical about these other capabilities of my ‘super-pen’ for risk of boring you to tears.  If you are already that bored, then I apologise, but all is not lost, for at least you’ll have learned not to bother with my ‘news and updates’ posts in the future.  Especially the ones where I tell you in the first sentence that I have nothing intelligent to say this week!


3 thoughts on “Writing with a pen

  1. Pingback: A need to write « The Art of Steering

  2. Pingback: Wednesday is for sitting in the sun « The Art of Steering

  3. Pingback: Writing as a method | The Art of Steering

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