Learning today is chaotic. There’s always a new app for note-taking, Smart pens, and the inspirational Moleskine.
To me, both digital and paper worlds are all one stream of productivity. I typically use pen and paper to brainstorm and mind map. I love the freedom of just quickly dumping thoughts on paper and then finding a web of connections between them.
Once I establish an understanding of the big picture I start to synthesize those ideas onto my computer where they get styled and formalized so that others can comprehend them.
I also love the feeling of feeling of crumpling up that piece of paper, assuming it’s loose leaf, and tossing it. Knowing that it’s permanently digitized is gratifying.
There are moments of course when time is running short and I’ll just snap a picture of my notes and import that image into Evernote. It always helps to see how visually I came to a solution anyway.
The best notebook is the one you have with you. As a rule of thumb, you should use whatever tool is closest: pen, paper, iPhone, PC.
As previously noted, I generally like to create a hands-on mess and then progress to clean it up in final digital format.
The 21st-century working process requires flexibility and skill in different formats which if you’re open to it make you more a versatile learner and doer.
I like to stress. Not the version that causes anxiety and makes you bite your lip or grind your teeth out of nerves.
I’m talking about good stress, the kind that pushes you to do memorable work.
In an interview with Copy Blogger, Seth Godin stated:
There are so many opportunities in our world, and so many things worth fixing — I can’t imagine wasting this moment.
Stress is the fear of not being remembered after you die.
The pressure to leave notable art in the world compels you to crush it, to risk failure for the end-goal.
Turn your nerves into excitement, not fear. Stress is a boon, especially if it propels you to create.
Those that intentionally resist change sometimes end up going too backward, making them inefficient and even more stressed.
As creators, we need to balance the use of both contemporary and old-school tools. To focus on one over the other puts you at a severe disadvantage.
If you work with just pens and paper, you may struggle to envision the end product. If you use the computer only, you’ll miss out on connecting the dots between diverse parts. Drawing ideas out helps facilitate and organize thinking. The computer packages concepts and makes them feel real.
Always brainstorm on paper first if you can. This is the moment you need speed and imperfection, matching up the speed of your thoughts with your hand. The computer is more for output. As soon as you have a sketch, you’ll finally be able to synthesize it on the computer and give it a digital reality.
The right mix of digital and analog tools makes you more productive and more creative.
There’s the copying, then there’s the challenge in creating something original.
The first step is instructive and empowering. Practice is always good. But the practice of copying can also be rote.
The purpose of copying is to kickstart the creative process. Once you understand the fundamentals you can create whatever your mind can conceive.
Recreation begets creation. Learn, but more importantly, make something you can call your own.
We all love side projects. They get us going creatively.
Side projects are typically things we take on because we’re actually interested in them. We enjoy putting in the playful work.
This blog is a side project
Side projects don’t necessarily change the world, have a deadline, or require perfection. We can even build side projects in a weekend and ship them for others to see.
Side projects can be simple and fun, reinvigorating to us and inspiring to others.
Nevertheless, don’t take on a side project that doesn’t come naturally or that’s dreadful. Forcing passion crimps creativity.
The side project may lead to something else such as the next big idea, but this isn’t the point of taking them on. The side project is an exercise in doing, remixing and recasting stuff that already exists and freshening it up.
We should try to create something for everything we consume.
Paper is about control, allowing for manipulation of the hands, eyes, and pen. If you’ve ever had to send or read an important email, you should print out hard copies first.
We’re much better at reading and editing on paper rather than a computer screen, even if it’s retina. Words just make more sense on paper. Here are some other benefits to using paper:
- Getting things done
- Creating mind maps
- Spilling/Connecting ideas
- Thinking clearer
- Scanning email threads
I don’t know what I think until I try to write it down.Joan Didion
Paper is also better for thinking. Sure, there’s apps for mind mapping and note-taking but pen and blank paper allows you to make a final dump of all your big ideas and then reconnect them to see the big picture.
It’s difficult to think when information is scattered in computer folders, emails, and in different apps. If it’s important enough, it should make it on paper. Below is my own recommendation for balancing digital and print worlds:
Here’s a holistic digital/paper 5-step approach:
- Start with a digital device for idea acquisition.
- Snag the best thoughts and write the down on paper.
- Connect the thoughts with hand-drawn mind maps and notes.
- Return to writing application and begin writing what will be the final product.
- Make printouts throughout the writing process and reread/edit so you don’t miss any details.
Children today are already skipping steps 2, 3, and 5 and completing everything from thinking, brainstorming, writing, and editing all on screen. On the whole, businesses still depend on pen and paper to conduct business.
While using less paper means saving trees and reduced clutter, it also makes people susceptible to more grammatical errors and missed connections. Pen and paper will remain useful until digital can mimic or make writing easier.
art via giphy
Instagram is not killing photography, just as Garageband didn’t kill music, just as High School basketball doesn’t ruin the NBA.
Just because Smartphones and 4G make it easy to create and distribute professional looking photos doesn’t destroy the art behind real photography.
What classified as real and professional photography anyway?
Just because you take unfiltered photos and upload them to Flickr doesn’t make you a worthy photographer.
There’s always going to be professional photographers, those that take their skill seriously and market their stuff. They will get recognition, make partnerships, and monetize off their work like professionals do.
If you’re a professional photographer, you can’t get caught up in the democratization of photo creation and sharing. You’ll lose the every time. Focus on your craft and making a living.
Proud of my amafessionalism. Taken on iPhone 4s, Ankara, Turkey.
Curation is now a desired profession, mostly because it has shifted from unearthing rarities in libraries and music crates to digging through the plethora of online content to find the most remarkable stuff.
Curators spend hours vetting material so the rest of us can save time. But that’s also why self-discovery is so gratifying.
Often times we find something that hasn’t been curated yet and we love it for that very reason. The discovery is our own.
Most of the time we’re surveyors of art and merely pin, tweet, and Facebook what a curator has already plucked for us. We curate for our friends and followers.
Curators are not creators but get appreciated the same. Curators have a good eye for art and how it gets displayed. It's an art.
But we need curators to educate us beyond museums and into online.
Whether you’re creating or curating, innovation is recognized no matter where it comes from, how it’s found, or how it spreads.
You can push a creative man into silence but all this does is fuel his creative output.
China held artist and “dissident” Ai Weiwei in captivity for 81 days. He nearly died.
Weiwei is now turning his jail time experience into a piece of art. For Weiwei, creative expression is more about storytelling than profit.
“Very few people know why art sells so high,” Mr. Ai replied. “I don’t even know.”
Still, his art sells for hundreds of thousands at Sotheby's in New York.
Weiwei lived in New York for 11 years before heading back to China. The creative freedom he learned in New York shines through WeiWei’s work.
Weiwei teaches us to make something lasting, in good times or bad. As Neil Gaiman said in his commencement speech this week:
“When things get tough, make good art. Make it on the bad days. Make it the good days too.”
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It’s not surprising that New York can sometimes feel like Paris. Some sites are especially beautiful like Central Park. The simplest scenes can be a reminder.
Paris is as much for art as New York is for commerce and most recently, technology.
We’re experiencing the second coming of art in the tech world today. Instagram and Paper 53 have jumpstarted the new mobile and tablet aesthetic. We’re all artists now.
New York is pushing the art tech wave. The technology grows in San Francisco but it gets cultivated in New York. There’s just too many people, money, and beautiful sites, some ever changing.
New York is symbolic for the rapid innovation happening in tech today. Companies like Foursquare, Etsy, Spotify, and now Facebook and Twitter operate in New York to capture its quick adoption of technology and creativity.
New York, en medias res. Blink for a moment you won’t miss a thing. There’s always something new.