rss feed

pen and paper


I do almost everything on my digital devices.

On my laptop alone, I communicate with coworkers, chat with friends, plan meals, book vacations, research why my refrigerator keeps making that weird noise, watch TV, listen to music, and eventually buy a new refrigerator.

What I don’t do? Slow down, take a deep breath, and think.

For that, I need paper.

I realized a few years ago that, while I love and rely upon my digital devices, I’m more effective when I pair my keyboard tapping with good, old fashioned longhand. In fact, when I slow down with paper, I actually write a whole lot faster. Skeptical? Allow me to convince you.

Studies show that writing longhand fires up the brain differently than computer writing does. According to the Huffington post, handwriting is important for brain development and cognition. Translation? Writing longhand can release your creativity in ways computer writing cannot.

For this reason—and many others—I recommend incorporating pen and paper into your writing/creative process. Here are just a few ways you can do it:

  1. Outline on paper. Draft on digital.

A while ago, I noticed something strange about the way I used my digital devices. When I picked up my phone, my fingers automatically tapped their way to Instagram. When I opened my laptop, my mouse zoomed over to Buzzfeed. I was on autopilot, wasting time by endlessly scrolling or taking quizzes to determine which type of sandwich best matched my personality (answer: meatball sub).

I was on autopilot. Thoughtlessly engaging on my digital devices without purpose or direction. And, when I used that same environment to work and create, which was all the time, I found it to be toxic and unproductive.

It was then that I started to experiment with using paper and pen for my outlines, only turning back to my laptop after I had the chance to fully explore and solidify my ideas. This small separation from my digital chaos granted me something that I didn’t know I was missing: space. Space to slow down, space to think, space to move in odd or unexpected directions, space to nurture my ideas, space to dirty the page, and space from distraction and sandwich quizzes.

With pen and paper, my outlines became stronger, more thoughtful, and more creative. And, when I turned back to my laptop, I could draft faster and more efficiently.

  1. Draft on digital. Edit on paper.

I don’t do this every time, but when I’m feeling truly flummoxed and uninspired with my edits, I’ll print out my drafts and physically redline the paper.

This (literally) gives you a new perspective. A new way to see the words, the story, the flow. And, in turn, forces your brain to think through the problem differently and in a new light. I’m often surprised by the edits I notice when I’m able to read through the piece on physical paper, rather than squinting at my computer screen.

  1. Don’t scroll.

Remember earlier when I mentioned my ability to scroll through memes mindless for (minutes, hours, days)? Well, the key word here is mindless. While I think shutting your brain off is important and key to restoring your creative juices, it should be purposeful. By scrolling through my phone, I wasn’t gaining anything, only losing time.

This is why I recommend doodling on physical paper. It’s still mindless but can provide a more creative outlet and spark inspiration. When I’m stuck or blocked, and a writing prompt just isn’t working, I’ll often doodle in a notebook I keep at my desk. And, more often than not, those doodles end up leading me back to where I need to go.

Writing with paper and pen can be a great additive to your digitally-driven process. Whether you’re looking for a break from your digital distractions, a new perspective, or simply a healthier outlet for resting your brain, paper can be a powerful tool that is here to help.

rss feed