Radio Free Bard

Where have the pen and paper gone?

Posted in Writing by radiofreebard on November 9, 2008

Writing with a pen and paper is an activity that has been forgotten by most of my friends. Reliance on a computer has become commonplace and simply picking up a pen and jotting has lost its appeal to many.

I’ve been assaulted with reasons as to why writing with a computer is better. Copy-paste, delete, spell-checking, all reasons given for abandoning the pen and paper heritage of writing. The ability to copy paste an article written in word into a blog hosted on wordpress is compelling I’ll admit. The predominance of electronic submission and email these days is also a good reason to exclusively write on a computer. These arguements carry great weight with a lot of people. I am not amongst those people.

I find using a computer horribly restrictive for a couple of reasons.

I’m limited as to where I can write

A computer is stationary and usually in the stuffiest room in the house. If it’s not in some backroom study, it’s in a public area or office where there are too many distractions. You can’t move it easily. Laptops are not a solution, even the smallest laptop is heavier than the heaviest notebook and keeping them charged so that you’re not relying on a powerpoint being available is not always easy or practical.

With pen and paper I can write anywhere I like, whenever I like, and with far less notice than with a computer. I often find myself scribbling some fleeting story idea into my notebook with little more than a second’s notice. Inspiration won’t wait for Windows to start up on your laptop.

I can’t scribble notes in the margin

Word Processors are overly prescriptive as to where on the page you can write. If I have a comment to make on my own work, I’d either have to slot it in to the text somewhere, breaking the flow of the writing, or keep notepad open so that I can alt-tab. Either way, keeping my notes and comments unbotrusive and close to their appropriate sections are mutually exclusive efforts with a computer.

I’ve seen pages of my own work where I’ve scribbled more in the margins than I have on the main part of the page. Stick figures are common-place fare and I’ve often used margin comments as the basis for new work. There’s just so much more flexibility with paper than with a computer.

Paper doesn’t crash while saving

It doesn’t even require saving for that matter. I’ve lost count of the number of times my housemate has lost hours or even days worth of work due to a crash, failure or overwrite. Version control is so complicated that there are dozens of needlessly complex systems out there for keeping track.

I date the paper I use to write. Problem solved.

I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on the topic, I’m pretty sure the paper posse is small and getting smaller while the computer crew is large and almost dominant.

I wonder when there’ll be a paper based wordpress?

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6 Responses

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  1. Tempyra said, on November 9, 2008 at 8:24 am

    But… on paper there is no backspace! I also dislike that horrible callous-y bump I get on the inside of my middle finger from gripping a pen/pencil. And I get hand cramps if I try to write for a prolonged (longer than 5 minutes lol) period of time. For drawing though, paper wins.

  2. radiofreebard said, on November 9, 2008 at 9:13 am

    It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent pen-cramp. It could be a matter of practice. Thanks for the comment Tempyra!

  3. websinthe said, on November 9, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Funnily enough, I can’t draw on paper at all. I need photoshop or I’m completely screwed.

    I’m not sure I agree with your article totally but I agree with the need to have a notebook on you at all times. Incredibly important.

    It’s good to see you’re finally on the net Kaiser, how long did it take? I’m surprised to see you capitulated.

  4. radiofreebard said, on November 9, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Ahh, websinthe, we meet at last. I’d heard about your antics a few years ago. Where did websinthe.org go?

    It didn’t take long enough, I’d seriously hoped to avoid the blogosphere. Seems like I may have been wrong about the people though.

  5. thepomegranateblog said, on November 9, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Good thoughts… I agree on your point “Inspiration doesn’t wait for Windows to start”! I think pen and paper are very handy and good to jot down ideas or to do lists… no better way then getting emotion out too… Sometimes the way you scribble also conveys how you’re feeling at the time; as do stick figures, little drawings etc like u mentioned… I love having little pads and notepads everywhere just in case something comes to me and I have an itching to write… But am eternally grateful for my computer which puts it all together nice & clean and most importantly organised!

  6. Tempyra said, on November 10, 2008 at 8:37 am

    My other problem with paper is that when inspiration strikes and I actually write it down (in a hurry, lest I forget) I can’t read my writing afterward 😦


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