Keyboard or Pen?

In this age where software, documents, and media are all being stored in the cloud, one has to ask the question “Where is the place of the humble pen and paper?” Are they rendered void by the rise of cloud based to-do apps, minimal writing software, and programs designed specifically to make note-taking a breeze?

The answer to this question really comes down to personal preference, but there are some great things about both writing by hand and typing.

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Jotting Down Notes

Note taking goes way back. It’s the process of recording thoughts, key-points in conversations, or just general brainstorming for further reference. It’s an important practice for anyone to master, but it is especially relevant to those of us in the creative industry.

Smartphones have greatly helped this discipline of note taking. Applications such as Evernote, Day One and iA Writer all have their respective applications on both mobile and desktop devices. This ability to set up an app and have it synchronise between all your gadgets is immensely convenient. Sudden burst of creativity while taking a stroll? Not a problem! Tap it into your phone and it will be at work waiting for you.

To-Do lists, or getting-things-done apps, have also been revolutionised in a similar manner. Applications like Things and Wunderlist allow you to keep all your tasks and errands nicely synced so that you never forget what you are meant to be doing again!

Nevertheless, there is still something appealing about the modest notebook. Electronic notes, while more secure and accessible than paper, just aren’t as personal. There are no text fields on paper, it is completely up to you where and how to write. You have the freedom to draw, to diagram, to do whatever you want with the ink. There is no standard procedure and everybody has their own style; I tend to draw things a lot. If I’m explaining an idea to someone I whip out my Moleskine and make my thinking visual. This is what attracts me to use a notebook over my smartphone for day-to-day jotting.

The electric devices that we adore so dearly, while magnificent in their own right, lack the freedom and the ‘open world’ that comes with pen and paper. There is more expression and more personality. Even so, notebooks do lack the vital ability to be searched and archived. If you loose a notebook, its contents are gone forever. Loose a computer or phone and, if you’ve been smart, the contents can be retrieved.

More Serious Writing

Writing with pen and paper can be be a richer experience than typing. I recently read that author Nick Cave writes his books by hand rather than using a computer. He says that this makes him better appreciate the value of what he is writing. The extra effort brings him closer into each word. I own two Lamy fountain pens that I write with frequently and when I do I find that I am paying more attention to what I am about to write; there is no backspace button on paper. What Nick Cave says in regard to writing by hand is rather accurate, it’s closer and more intimate than tapping keys.

However, it is also far less convenient. I adore iA Writer; it’s no secret. I’m using it right now to write these words. I love the synchronisation between my devices, how I’m no longer limited to a desk but I can take my drafts and writings with me everywhere on whatever device I have handy. I love that flexibility in the same sort of way I love the freedom of notebooks.

Minimal writing apps like iA Writer are becoming more and more popular. Microsoft Word, while arguably the reigning king of word processing, seems so complicated and clumsy in comparison. Minimal word processing applications are designed to take you further into what you are doing, to show you a more intimate setting, in much the same way writing by hand does. If you’ll allow me to quote Elvis, “A little less conversation, little more action please.”

At the End of the Day

When all is said and done, it depends on you. You may prefer the intimacy of writing with pen and paper while others couldn’t bare to leave the convenience of their beloved apps. The beauty of writing is that nobody does it the same. We’re all different in how we express ourselves and the tools we use are just another form of that expression. As for me, I’m somewhere in the middle. Stuck at a mid-point due to my love of gadgets and my allegiance to analog writing.

What about you? What do you use for note taking? What about more serious writing? Do you have a favourite pen, notebook, or writing application? Leave a comment and let us know!


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