The advantages of an outdated form of working.
Writing on a computer is better than on paper. I knew this simple fact since I borrowed my dad’s work laptop at the age of 12, an old IBM ThinkPad, to write a screenplay that I hoped would make me famous. It was so much better than the writing by hand I had to do for school. I could correct my grammar and spelling without crossing out words, reorganise my sentences, and rewrite parts I didn’t like. These things were just not possible on paper.
Since then, nothing has changed. I still know that a computer holds only advantages over a piece of paper. In fact, after I started taking my laptop to lectures at university, I never wrote anything down by hand anymore. That was until two weeks ago when I started writing on paper again and (to my great surprise) truly enjoyed it.
How it happened
After moving to a new apartment, I tried to establish some new positive habits, and one of them was not to use any screens in bed. Because I always like to write down ideas and thoughts, I bought a legal pad and placed it alongside a pen on my bedside table. But I didn’t stop at taking notes, and after a few days, I had developed a new habit; I wrote every night before picking up a book and getting ready to sleep. Articles for my blog, the Digital Oase Newsletter, and a draft for a guide I am working on. I even tried out some fictional wring, which is something I have never done before. To my great surprise, I wasn’t missing any of the fantastic features a computer offers, and I even was glad to have a piece of paper instead of my MacBook.
What I like
Writing on paper means writing away from any scenes, which leads to the lack of any distractions. When wiring on my computer, I am constantly tempted to do something other than working on the complex sentence I am stuck on. I open my browser to check reddit or play a round of chess to “clear my mind”. I often end up staying away from my document for over an hour. I also tend to switch between multiple projects, never focussing on one for a long time. My weakness is that I am getting annoyed when I am stuck - so I got used to switching to a different document to avoid the daunting task of working through a tricky part. But now, it is just me and the one article on paper in front of me. Instead of instantly switching to something different, I have to sit on my bed in silence and think about the sentence until I figure out how I want to continue. Surprisingly, this never takes more than a few minutes. Just a few minutes of concentration fix the hours of procrastinating, and a distraction-free environment leaves me no other choice than to do exactly that.
I grew to love the physical act of writing (even though my hands really hurt initially). I like to actively work with my text, crossing out words and sentences because I feel more connected with the text on the paper and even the environment around me. When sitting on my computer, my mind is trapped inside the digital world, and I forget my surroundings. When thinking on paper, I observe my surroundings while figuring out where to go with my story. I bought a big Moleskine notebook, and I cannot wait to take it outside for writing in different places. I can write articles (like exploring London) while sitting at the city’s iconic places or a pub, really experiencing and capturing the moment.
Where I’ll go from here
Paper will not replace my laptop, and digital writing will definitely stay my preferred method for 90% of the work I have to do. Spell and grammar-checking, the ability to work on my sentences over and over again, and my writing speed are just some of the advantages I never want to miss, and I have to digitalise my writing anyways to be able to publish it on the internet. But, from now on, analogue writing will also be a part of my work. I grew to not only like, but prefer to write on paper in some situations. It is not about replacing my digital tools but improving my overall workflow. In the future, I might work like this:
- Write the initial draft on paper
- Read over it and improve it on paper
- Type the text into my computer
- Correct spelling and grammar
- Digitally edit the text multiple times
- Final spell and grammar check
I am looking forward to testing this method with a few of my articles. Maybe you can try writing on paper as well - be sure to let me know how it works for you.