Pen and paper verses computer!

with No Comments

Pen and paper verses computer!
At a recent meeting of my writers@work group we briefly discussed where and with what medium we write. Most, wrote straight into their computer, while I explained I write virtually everything into spiral A4 notebooks. One of the other members knew exactly where I was coming from and asked if I was artistic?

I have no problem admitting that I start everything I write in these notebooks. Articles, family tree’s, I draw maps in them and drawings. I find if I sit at my PC and type I spend far too much time staring at the screen. Yes, I am thinking about what I’m writing but it’s easy to become distracted. There is something about holding a pen and writing on paper that gets my creativity flowing. Later when my story is finished I begin to type it into my laptop as a first draft doing research along the way.

With all of this fresh in my mind I did a search and came up with the article below by Mark Stead. I thought it was worth sharing…

Using Different Parts of your Brain
by Mark Shead read more

There was some research done into what parts of the brain were triggered when writing at a computer versus what parts were triggered when writing with a pencil and paper. The experiments showed that writing by hand triggered activity in significantly different portions of the brain than when writing at a computer. (See Mozarts Brain and the Fighter Pilot book.)

Obviously, it is expected that there would be some difference because of the varied muscle motor skills required by each activity. However, the difference was greater than what would be expected by just the required motor differences. The conclusion of the researchers was that we think significantly differently when writing by hand than we do when using a computer. This has some important implications for creativity. By simply changing the way we record our thoughts, we can change the neurons that are firing inside our heads. Using different neurons opens up the possibility of making different types of connections and associations.

This isn’t to say that switching how you write will suddenly make you a genius, but it can help you reach your full potential. As a simple exercise, try writing about a subject using a computer and then coming back and writing about it again the next day using a pen and paper. You’ll probably find that you make some new associations that you didn’t make previously. This is partially because of the way your brain tends to work on things subconsciously and partially because changing the way you write causes your brain to work differently.

Composers have used this trick for years when they get stuck writing music. It is common practice for them to switch to a different instrument to help get over a brain block. The different instrument causes them to think about the musical “problem” in a different way.

You can use a similar approach when you feel like you are suffering from a lack of creativity. Even simple things like working in a different place can help change your mind’s context in ways that can help trigger new creative thoughts. Here is a list of some things you can do to help trigger different parts of your brain

Change Where You Work – This can be as simple as moving from the desk to the dining room table for a few hours, or as drastic as spending a month in a Mexican villa across the border.
Use a Different Tool – This is similar to the idea of switching from writing with the computer to writing by hand, but it can be done in other ways as well. If you are writing, try using a typewriter for a while. If you are working for creative numerical solutions, switch to using a calculator and ledger paper instead of a spreadsheet. If you normally use Microsoft Word, switch to using a simpler text editor.
Talk to Someone Else – If you are brain storming for a solution to a problem, consider discussing it with someone totally outside of your area of expertise. Talk to a child or your grandparent. You may find that the process of defining the problem for someone outside of the problem domain can help clarify a solution.
Take a Break – Sometimes just doing something totally unrelated can help you generate creative ideas. Better yet, do something you’ve never done before. This can be as simple as visiting a new coffee shop or as drastic as moving to a foreign country.
Of course, if you spend all of your time just trying to mix things up to be creative, your productivity will go down. However, spending a little time making sure that you aren’t getting stuck in a thinking rut can be extremely valuable and can help you make leaps ahead in your personal effectiveness.

Leave a Reply