The way we write is changing. I spend more time writing with my thumbs than ever before. I used to write primarily on napkins or whatever blank, portable space was around. There’s something about using a pen that I’ve always loved, but recently I’ve been typing.
Writing on paper compared to typing sort of feels like running outside versus running on a treadmill. When I run outside I don’t usually keep track of how far I’ve gone. I don’t think about the way back until I feel the first aches of fatigue. There’s no stopping when I’m running outside because I know I’m the only one that can bring me back home so whatever time I spend walking or stopping is time wasted.
There’s a different pressure when you run on a treadmill. Sometimes I feel like I don’t push myself as much or run as log on a treadmill. It’s mostly because I know there’s a tv and a gin and tonic in the other room that I’ve already run this far for and deserve. It’s too close. I don’t have to get home to have it. It’s there.
When I’m writing on paper I have a desire to finish. When I write on a screen I know it will be there for later. When I write on paper, I’m more careful about my words because there’s less space and maybe I don’t have an eraser.
I write more on a laptop now because there is infinite space and putting words down on that space is the first step to writing something coherent. I will write pieces and leave them for days or months. When I come back to them it’s like I’m editing someone else’s work. It’s like all the time I’ve spent writing since I wrote that post have made me a better writer and I’m editing my less experienced self. Knowing that makes me yearn to write as many words as I can. Even if they don’t make sense at the time.
There are two notebooks I carry around with me at all times. One is green and one is black. The green one is where I write posts like these. I carry them around in case urgency strikes. There are times words erupt from my mind and there isn’t time to get my laptop out or there isn’t the space to put it anywhere. The pages are small probably no longer than the length of my hand. The pages fill up quickly and halfway through the page the writing usually turns to a pseudo-cursive only I can understand.
Originally the green book was intended to come with me on adventures where I might be inspired and wouldn’t have a computer nearby. It’s an action rooted in the part of our culture that romanticizes nostalgia. It’s an act of hope of abandoning technology to truly be in the moment of an adventure.
I used to think technology was sucking some of the creativity out of the world making it easier for inspiration to become copying and alteration instead of new creations. Technology seemed to be inhibiting profound moments one might have on an adventure. But with boundaries I’ve found the opposite to be true.
I’m writing this post on a train traveling north through Southern California. The mountains are covered in freshly fallen snow. As we go on the landscape changes to that of lush, green mountains peppered with tiny white and yellow houses. When I first hopped on the train I felt a directionless urge to write.
There were a million thoughts in my head like a dream I had the night before which involved a worm coming out of my belly button. I remember the tug in my stomach when I would pull on the wriggling worm. I can still feel it as if it had happened in real life. If I write on paper I can avoid further distractions that come with an open browser. Today, the need to write was there but the conditions for writing on paper were not.
You don’t really think about it but writing with a pen is exhausting. Especially if you have something to say with passion which is how I say most things. The train shakes and holding the pen steady is a training exercise in and of itself. So I pulled out my laptop instead and opened a blank page. I didn’t connect to the internet, and I didn’t take out my phone. I just wrote.
This post isn’t meant to be about whether writing on paper or writing on a computer is better. It’s really to celebrate the many ways we have to write now. More options should mean more opportunities to write. More opportunities to write leads to better writing. And a world with better writing is all good with me. So what do you write on?