About fifteen years ago, while visiting Washington, D.C., I caused a stir. The security officers gave me a hard time—jokingly—when I presented my handbag for inspection to tour the Capitol Building.
Why all the pens?
Just to be sure I always had one that worked, I’d accumulated more than a dozen (they’d fallen to the bottom of my purse) from a habit of grabbing a fresh pen before leaving my home or office. Caught with the embarrassing stockpile, I developed a new habit of taking inventory!
Today, paperless people might say that one pen is too many. I disagree. The fundamental writing tools—pen and paper—remain relevant and valuable, possibly for reasons that you haven’t considered.
When developing ideas, you’ll possibly begin with one or several topics and angles before deciding what to pursue as well as your approach. If working on your device, you have delete and backspace tools at your fingertips, tempting you to discard concepts that appear to lack merit.
Cleaning up as you go along might seem efficient, but what happens to any fleeting notions that, on second thought, might have been worthwhile? You’re less likely to reconsider (much less recall) concepts after expeditiously erasing them from the screen.
If you’re writing on paper, you might line through certain parts or start over on a new page, but the content won’t disappear until your rejects enter the paper shredder. By retaining the original work in progress, you can revisit any seeds of ideas that could blossom.
Granted, typing allows you to capture a rapid flow of thoughts more expeditiously, but writing by hand opens your mind to creative thinking. Studies show that certain areas of the brain fire while writing by hand; they don’t engage while pressing buttons. The brain further operates at a slower pace when writing by hand.
If you have the patience, writing by hand gives your mind permission to wander, explore and experience aha moments.
When taking notes from a meeting or lecture, the ability to type quickly allows you to record a greater volume of information, but what will you remember?
If you’re writing by hand, instead of taking down every word, you’re selecting key words and material points to summarize as you go along. Consequently, your mind is engaged with the subject matter. Perhaps drawing analogies while you’re listening and processing the information, you’re contemplating what it all means.
If you’re typing, you might leave with more pages of content. If you’re writing with a pen, you’ll probably leave with a deeper understanding.
Technology grants incredible ease and speed in creating all kinds of content and subsequently communicating through all types of platforms. Expediency delivers tremendous advantages, but not if the message contains factual errors and/or off-putting comments that could have been prevented.
Starting with a pen and paper shifts the focus from urgency to accuracy by granting time to reflect on your words and tone. Simply adding the step of typing your handwritten draft—and reading it in the process—will almost always reveal something you’ll want to address.
Getting a Team to Focus
When people congregate with their devices in hand, they each bring the world along to the meeting.
Providing a pen and paper for each person to take notes plus an easel pad and marker for the facilitator will limit distractions from the outside. Instead of typing and clicking on who-knows-what link, participants might surprise you and themselves with their enlightened contributions that come from being more fully engaged and having real discussions.
On a final note, if you’re ever stuck on what to write, don’t stare at a screen. Instead, grab a pen and paper and start writing—about anything. The exercise could begin with your scribbling nonsense, but one word will lead to another until the idea materializes before your eyes.
If you can’t find a pen, find me. I always have an extra one on hand.
My best to you,
Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady
Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at www.writelady.com.