Sometimes taking the long way around an idea is the best way to reach it.

I wanted to write something poignant about the work I do, why I do it, the way I do it and maybe with that kind of confessional, reach some kind of peace of mind.

Being slow in the manner I’m slow is not really considered a virtue nowadays. Doing things not once but twice by design may seem awkward and wasteful. After all, the time I spend writing this text by hand I could have spent writing it straight into the blog, digital direct, no fuss mo muss. But I find that it reduces the time I spend thinking about what to write. This post is a way for me to sort of justify what I write and how I write. It has kept me from spewing out a bunch of stuff when stressed after all.

I write everything by hand first. Any of my private projects have been written by hand in one of my very many notebooks before its been published anywhere. At the moment of writing this, I have 83 jam packed notebooks of different sizes, different brands and with different content squirrelled away in boxes around my apartment. Many of them contain newspaper clippings (I miss the days of newspapers), some of them are full of sketches and drawings and some are full of tightly spaced and narrowly written text.

I used to say that I wanted to take notes the same way a serial killer in TV-series and movies took notes. Those tightly written pages full of something completely confusing for a ”normal” person. I wanted notebooks that looked like that, not because I wanted to kill people, but because I liked the aesthetics.

Years later, I realised that I was already doing exactly that. Tightly written text, sometimes interrupted by a doodle, a piece of paper stuck to the page or maybe even a fortune from a fortune cookie, because it gave me an idea or a thought that I needed to put on paper. All of this among carefully (and to be honest not so carefully) printed letters and words.

But why? Why do it? One – it feels good to write down my thoughts by hand. They become tangible. I can touch them. My productivity becomes a thing, not ethereal and flighty but an artefact. My ideas manifest in some way. I have 83 notebooks stuffed with ideas, thoughts, love, regrets, disdain, cats, life. I have tangible proof that I exist.

Two – giving myself the time to write, to think, to exercise thoughtfulness in this manner is helpful. It helps me sharpen my language, cut the fat, edit once when writing and once when transcribing.It gives me the opportunity – if I want – to remove any references of myself comparing myself to a serial killer, for instance.

Since this is a self-reflecting post and something I’ll be putting on my blog, I won’t expect you to take my word for why the tools I’ve chosen are affecting the way I think or even have merit. I’ll also point you to some research about the tools so that you can read up on your own and determine if I’m right, or if I’m just suffering from confirmation bias.

The Tech Advocate 1 lists some of the processes that you engage in by writing by hand. First of all, there’s the physical process involved in writing a letter on a page. You have to form the letter correctly and each letter uses a different motion. When you press a button on a keyboard, you use the same motion, pressing a button.

Another study2 on the subject suggest that your grasp of a subject may improve by taking notes by hand. If you take notes at a lecture or talk, you’re actively rephrasing information and summarising it. You’re engaged in the process of understanding the subject.

Writing distresses you. Yup. The written word can also be beautiful. There’s harmony in writing and writing well.

In other words, memory, recall and cognitive thought processes are some of the benefits to writing by hand. Thankfully for those of us who cannot live without it the introduction of the stylus and digital pen brings some of the feeling of writing back to people. Although I would never give up the tactile feeling of having a really good pen (such as the one I’m currently using) scratching across the page, I do see why handwriting could be considered a waste of space and time. It also requires dead trees to work, so there’s an environmental aspect to consider.

As with everything else, we choose the tools that suit us to reach the results what we want. Thinking slow and processing is too much a part of me for me to start changing that, but as always, find the tools that make you happy and operate on a level desired by you.

  1. How Important is Writing by Hand in This Digital Age Link
  2. The Pen is Mightier Than The Keyboard Link