Making Writing Fun Again--If It Ever Even Was...
Writing with pen and paper.
Is it like composing on a piano or guitar instead of a synthesizer?
Pounding the keys or plucking the strings instead of turning knobs and flipping switches?
I started writing this screed on a computer. How ironic is that?
And how much more vital will this missive be made by switching over to the implements of our forebears, replacing the prattle produced in zeroes and ones with the prattle of pen and paper?
Maybe not at all. Maybe it’ll still be drivel. But, all this to say…
This Christmas, Give Yourself A Writer’s Gift
You find yourself writing a lot--or, at least, writing more than you want to be writing.
And staring at that blank Word document in the computer sucks out loud. (There. I said it.)
I know the feeling.
I’ve also been doing something about it. You can, too.
It requires giving yourself a gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive (though it can be).
It can also change a lot about the way you connect with what you’re required to write.
In fact, it might make writing feel like a pleasure again--or maybe even for the first time ever.
It’s also going to sound stupidly simple, even ridiculous.
You might even hate me for this.
Buy yourself a good, small notebook and a good pen.
Then, find yourself a good place for sitting. And writing.
My reference standard for writing materials are a grid-lined A4 Moleskine notebook (that’s about 5 x 8 inches) and a Waterman Hémisphère pen with a rollerball cartridge.
(The smaller Moleskine is great for carrying in a pocket or purse, and you get to feel like you’re one of those Lost Generation writers cruising the Left Bank.)
Yes, a Moleskine and a Waterman together can set you back about 80 bucks.
But they’re special.
With them, you develop a different kind of connection.
You almost feel like you’re sitting in Les Deux Magots across the room from F. Scott as you scribble your next sales sonnet for the new ad campaign.
That said, a simple ballpoint and a good Moleskine knockoff can be had for about 15 bucks, and can still make you enjoy what you’re doing with them.
So can the venue.
In the house, I have a new writing spot.
It’s a club chair with a reading lamp and a side table. On the table are two generic ballpoints and four notebooks.
When I wake up at 5am, which happens often, I brew up a French press full of Italian roast from an American purveyor (all without creating an international incident), and I sit in the early morning darkness beneath the ring of light from the reading lamp to scribble and scrawl. (My handwriting sucks.)
Sometimes, as this morning, I’m making notes for my next non-fiction book.
That happens in a Moleskine knockoff that came from Walmart. The notebook was about six bucks. The ballpoint was free. And the resulting verbal pearls are priceless. (IMHO. YMMV. AIPW.)*
Other times, I’m reading a book about the anthropology of music and finding parallel inspiration for the creative and psychological processes as they pertain to branding.
That writing is happening in a proper Moleskine that I bought years ago, and has been sitting on a shelf, waiting for a little attention.
Some mornings, I whip out another Moleskine that’s filled with notes about clients and branding and ads and--yes--drafts for this screed. (!)
One notebook is a gratitude journal.
As something of a comedian and cynic, this is not an exercise I ever saw coming.
But enough intel about this thing called gratitude journaling keeps finding me that I decided to take a crack at it.
Who knows? Maybe it’s making me a better person.
At the very least, it’s going to give me something else to joke about.
Once upon a time, when I was doing stand-up comedy, I was branded as a low-rent Dennis Miller. If this can’t fix that, it can make me more low-rent than I was before.
But why does any of this make a difference?
It’s the power of pen over Pentium.
There’s a connection between your brain, your hand, the pen and the paper that cannot be replicated with a keyboard and screen.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll never give up digital media. They’re here to stay, and they’re a necessary tool.
But I find that I’m writing better when sitting alone with the organic components of writing as it used to be.
Science also offers insight to back us up on this.
Writing with pen and paper engages more of your brain. It excites your Reticular Activating System, which is like the CPU for the computer that is your very being. Everything lights up and comes alive.
Writing with pen and paper can establish a more profound emotional connection between you and your reader.
You also gain better recall of what you’ve written.
Bonus: you’re not distracted by the computer’s siren song to check the headlines or read email.
Is it time to turn over a new leaf--literally?
Maybe. I know I’m enjoying the process more when I'm away from the computer.
My time alone under the light with the pen and paper is visceral in a way computers can’t be.
I think about the late, great Hal Riney, who wrote some of his legendary advertising on notepaper in a bar.
Some great writers of the Lost Generation used pen and paper. Hemingway used a blank page and a stubby pencil.
James Patterson and Stephen King write longhand.
Quentin Tarantino, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Tan and George Clooney are all analog lettering Luddites.
Even JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel was written by hand.
Yes, she was too broke to afford a typewriter or a computer.
But if she had used one or the other, how would it have changed the nascent genius that has turned her into one of the wealthiest people on the planet?
Want to feel the tiny thrill of wordsmithing that's more exciting and impactful than you expect it to be?
Try a good pen and a good notebook.
There’s all kinds of scientific evidence to back up the power of analog instruments.
And the emotional significance of that special place where you can compose might even make you look forward to the blank page each morning.
And if you decide to try this, let me know how it goes for you.
I’m curious to hear about your success.
Belated Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanza. Happy National Cookie Exchange Day. Whatever you’re celebrating, have a fabulous holiday.
*In My Humble Opinion. Your Mileage May Vary. And It Probably Will.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in Park City
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.