Here is one of the most important writing habits I have learned over the past couple years: I avoid using my computer until I know exactly what I’m trying to say. I have wasted hours staring at a blank Word document, waiting for inspiration from the blinking cursor, or–this is my personal weakness–obsessing over the formatting of my text, which is still only shallow bits of nonsense. By closing my laptop and using only a pen and notepad, I have been able to formulate thoughts clearly and more efficiently
So why is the task of writing best begun with good old pen and paper? Of course I can’t answer for everyone, but here are the reasons it works well for me.
1. You can’t check the news with a piece of paper.
I am naturally lazy. Therefore I tend to switch to something easy when the writing gets hard. I get this incredible urge to browse the news or social media, or anything that doesn’t require me to think so hard. Paper is a perfect solution to anyone struggling with indiscipline in this area–no matter how many times you flip it over, you’ll never find Google news or your Facebook feed on the other side.
2. Writing on paper allows you to focus on the ideas themselves instead of the presentation of those ideas.
Typing something out requires you to present your information in a linear fashion. But that’s not how thoughts occur to us. I must reserve the presentation of my thoughts for later. At the outset of my writing task, I must focus on figuring out what those thoughts should be. Using simply pen and paper, I can easily write in different sizes, different directions, and different places on the page. With pen and paper I can draw lines from one sentence to another. Then I can begin to form a mental map of the ideas I am trying to convey.
3. Writing on paper gives you the freedom to quickly draw concepts that are hard to explain in words.
By using only pen and paper I can quickly sketch out my ideas. For example, I can portray my thoughts as links in a chain, layers in a foundation, or branches of a tree. Yes, you can do this on your computer, but the process will be slower, and it will and lack the flexibility you need to quickly change your drawing if new ideas come to your mind. And please, don’t waste your time scouring the internet for diagrams and illustrations.
4. Writing on paper increases the chances that connections and thoughts will occur to you.
I have noticed that the added flexibility of drawing lines and diagrams increase the chance that new ideas will occur to my mind. I am rarely as creative when beginning my writing task on my computer.
5. Writing on paper saves your eyes.
Finally, save your eyes! The less time I spend staring at a computer screen, the better.