Most good ideas (whether they’re ideas for narrative structure, a particular twist in the argument, or a broader topic) come into our minds as hunches: small fragments of a larger idea, hints and intimations. Many of these ideas sit around for months or years before they coalesce into something useful.
Good ideas collect like pennies and come together when you least expect it. However, unlike the author I feel like your best notebook is the one you have with you.
My fastest notebook is my Smartphone. I type on a touch screen much faster than writing brain farts down with a pen where I’m more likely to lose an idea.
Do whatever works for you but try to pick one source so you can easily come back to it and build upon your ideas. Some ideas are so random and need to soak.
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 of 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 them 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.
It’s not just paper. It’s paper engineering.