Returning to Pen and Paper

Sunday, December 04, 2011
My inspiration seems muted. Or so it seems.
Has technology impacted your creativity?

 A few years ago, whenever I left my house, I made sure I had a notepad and a pen. My bedside table was stocked, my car's glove compartment had a stash. I kept a few stationery stores in  business buying notebooks.

Now I think that my inspiration is waiting for my writing life to catch up with it. All those story ideas from years past are just waiting for me to hurry up and finish writing them before handing me more material.

Except that isn't the issue. I can't find the last story idea I jotted down. My creative notes and notepads have vanished. And I blame my smartphone. (No, I don't think my smartphone had some nefarious plot to kidnap my notes...)

Believe me, I appreciate having a smartphone and make sure I have it whenever I leave home, but it sometimes feels as if I stopped writing down my writing ideas around the same time I started using a smartphone. It seemed too much to be carting around a notebook and, well, everything in my pocket. (I also used to carry around a camera for snapping photos for my blog.) Now, I've downsized my purse and carry just the basics. My back has appreciated it, but not my creative life (especially my lackluster blog!).

I know, I know. I should be able to jot down more notes and better organize them in my smartphone.

Except I don't want them organized because I won't be able to find them based on my own mental organizing hardware and I can't create the feeling of a "jot" on my smartphone. Perhaps there are applications for that, as there are for everything else for smartphones, I just haven't found the one. Not yet.

So, it's back to pen and paper for me. It's on my Christmas wish list. As is the hopes that I'll return to jotting down all sorts of good ideas. It only follows then that my top New Year's resolution is to write more in 2012.

Has technology helped or hurt your creative writing or your creative process? If so, what have you done about it?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina. Follow her @Eliz_Humphrey.


Jen said...

Paper notebooks are on my Christmas list as well! I searched for an app for weeks. I wanted one I could either use a stylus with or could just write letter by letter on the screen and it would just make it into a "note" on my phone.

But none of those take into account my need to expand or the way I like to flip through the pages to find the place where I wrote down that one thing I'm looking for.

Unknown said...

I adore my smartphone and use it for all kinds of things, but it is a little cumbersome to try to write notes on it. I have a tiny little sketchbook that I carry, but you've inspired me to test the mini-diary app I have on my phone to see how well it works for me.

Technology generally helps my process because I can capture something on the fly and then dump it onto my laptop as soon as I open it. That means that I don't leave notes sitting on my phone; I load them into a different file on my laptop so I can manipulate them easily at a later date. But, yes, that little aforementioned notebook does get a lot of use when I'm working on idea fragments for my blog.

The whole thing about technology's intersection with how we keep notes and do work as writers is that we are in a position to redefine the creative process for the digital age. Or expand it. We have many options.

Salem Witch Child said...

Whenever I get stuck I always shut down my computer (I don't have a smartphone) and grab a pen and paper. Then I just begin writing down words that may not make sense. Whatever comes into my mind and eventually I usually have some good ideas.

As far as pics for your blog, try carrying a keychain camera. They aren't perfect but good enough for the quick snapshot.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

I don't have a smart phone yet - will surely get one sometime soon. But there is nothing like a notebook for jotting down ideas or random sentences or descriptions that pop into my head. There is something magical about the brain to hand to paper route.

Naiyly said...

Well I still prefer the old pen and notebook to do my journaling. I have a cell phone but no apps. I carry a notebook in my purse....(even though I am considering downsizing the contents of the big bag (purse) that I carry)... There is just something about having pen and paper in my hand.
When ever I finally complete my novel....all those hand written chapters will now have to be typed into the computer...!

Karen Doniere said...

I love this post. I don't necessarily think that technology has hurt my writing. I don't journal because I just don't make the time. I do love my smart phone. But I'm a lot like you in that I have so many songs and poems in various notebooks that I can't find. And, I need to put my journal in my purse as it's more than large enough to accommodate the size of it. Great idea. Thanks for sharing.

Robyn Chausse said...

It would probably be interesting to the mainstream to know just how non-techy writers are! Of all the computer-focused professions out there writers just seem to prefer (on the average) pen, paper, and printed books.
My cell phone is at least 5 yrs old; I think it will take a picture but there is no Internet access. I don't have a Kindle or iPad and always write my ideas on paper. I started making files on my computer to eliminate the Post-It forest on my desk but that habit never caught on...I just never seem to look in the computer files for the ideas...
(To make myself feel better about all this paper use I make sure all my notebooks are made from recycled sources)
Guess old habits actually do die hard :)

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