This is a question people ask me regularly: “Do you write with a pen (or pencil) and paper or do you write using your computer?”
My response: “Both”
The follow up question is often, “Do you do one sort of writing on the computer and another kind in your notebook?”
My response, “Not necessarily. And sometimes I write on my phone.”
This tends to frustrate people who want “the one pure secret to how to create a lot of content really fast”. If they were honest, they wouldl admit to the underlying desire being “because I want to make a lot of money and quit my day job.”
I’m not calling this a bad thing, I appreciate the ambition for abundance. The problem is, writing well isn’t always an exact recipe. I know lots of copywriters will tell you different. Copywriters may have an exact recipe for sales letters and they may have products to teach you how to write blog posts without ever writing.
If you want to write and you would like to write well and you would like to know about different ways of getting to a positive end result, please continue reading.
Generally, I approach writing projects like this:
I prefer to keep an old fashioned spiral notebook or composition book for my daily writing practice, which I usually do in the early morning. Most recently I’ve written three pages in the morning with the first page being standard brain dumping, simple free flow writing. The second page is a 21 item list of “What I did yesterday” – an inverse to-do list, “This is what I actually did.” with no basis in good, bad or indifferent. Just the facts.
Depending on the size of your notebook, these 21 lines may take up almost a complete page.
I finish that page with commentary on the list or more free writing.
The third page is whatever I need it to be. Sometimes I pre-write quotes or questions at the top of the page. Sometimes I write my word of the year or theme of the month on the page. Sometimes I will write something that is bothering me at the top of the page so that I may work through it.
I always end with at least six lines of gratitude because this insures my end on an up note.
This way my morning writing serves me to learn about patterns in my life (What did I do? What did I do I may write about? What is troubling me? What is inspiring me? Who are the people I am investing time in and what are the projects I’m ignoring?
All of this is done the old fashioned way: pencil or pen to blue lined spiral notebook or composition book paper. Brene Brown reminds us “The way to move information from your head to your heart is through your hands.”
Yes, this may include tapping on your computer keyboard or into your phone, but the pace of the notebook is slower. It connects you to your history and to the history of others in your life.
If there is information in your notebook to use in future writing (including something like this) the words and understanding will be deepened by re-reading what you wrote by hand and adding it into a computer document.
I encourage you to try writing differently from time-to-time. Don’t get too stuck in the idea there is a right way and there is a wrong way.
Instead, playfully experiment with different ways.
There is no wrong way to do this – there is simply and purely writing – and the love for expressing yourself and perhaps for other audiences as well.
Okay, first of all, I’m going to try your morning writing routine. The 21 things I did the day before is such a great idea. Even the most minor things like cooking dinner or going to the gym will give me that productive feeling. Also, I love that your free writing also has some parameters, so that it is a productive writing session. Brilliant!
Thank you, Elisa! I also write “sub” things I do, like at a meeting I might talk with Sue and then I might give a speech. I may pack a lunch with X Y and Z in it and I may pack another lunch with 1,2,3. Interesting on my list for yesterday I didn’t list that I wrote a haiku and took a picture, which is one of my daily goals…. silly me! That’s two more things I did that I didn’t write down at first. (I did add later with a big exclamation point.)
I like the ideas for the three pages. I’ve been redefining success as having a sense of satisfaction, and I see this process clarifying what I do that satisfys me.
I love that word “satisfaction.” The list making is a daily clarification and also helps me see patterns in what I happily get done (with satisfaction) and stuff I barely get done (because for whatever reason I have yet to find it satisfying!)
Elisa Heisman says
I hope you keep these lists somewhere that you can look back on in ten years and share with others.
I keep a notebook on my nightstand for when ideas come to me in the middle of the night. I jot them down, add more as it comes to me then write it up on the computer.
Frances Cahill says
Thank you for the 21 things tip – that is just brilliant. One thing I would mention though (as a boomer pen and paper user). The action of writing with a pen and paper activates different areas of our brains compared to typing.
These areas are the lovely, juicy creative spots when used for cursive writing. It is a delicious feeling isn’t it?
Roy A Ackerman, PhD, EA says
My fountain pen is only for personal notes- or thank yous. Otherwise, it’s my computer keyboard, where the words whiz by about 1/4 as fast as I can say them. (I’m from New York- I speak about 500 wpm.)
Dr.Amrita Basu says
I write with pen and paper often. There’s something about how our brains work when we write with our hands. It’s different than when we write on the laptop.