Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Tuesday Talk Back: Do you THINK better on paper?



“Writing is thinking on paper, or talking to someone on paper. If you can think clearly, or if you can talk to someone about the things you know and care about, you can write – with confidence and enjoyment.”  – William Zinsser

In Saturday’s interview with Ian Hedley, he mentioned being able to think better on paper. Do you agree?

As a visual person by nature, words on a screen can often feel very one-dimensional to me. When I put pencil to paper, I can doodle in the margins, circle great ideas, cross out the not so good ones, and rearrange a series of papers on the floor to see which part of a project should come first, next, etc.

“Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist, they’re about being a good thinker.” – Jason Santa Maria

Good Ideas Grow on Paper:  “Great designers have one thing in common: their design process is centred on ideas; ideas that are more often than not developed on paper.”

The Magic of Thinking Paper 

“you slow yourself down so you can consider each thought” 

Doris Plumb uses a writing process that involves writing quickly in a journal, without thinking, so students’ ideas come out fast.

5 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk Back: Do you THINK better on paper?

  1. Thanks for featuring my video on Thinking on Paper.

    Regarding Beth’s note, taking multiple passes–iterating–is a known way to reduce the overload. Its like switchbacks on a hiking trail.

    Regarding KC’s note, I do think whether you are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic affects whether you strongly prefer pen and paper. Visual types seem to do just as well at the computer, at least most of the time. But I’m a pen and paper girl.

    Bill, the extra degree of intention with writing can definitely help you focus.

  2. Writing helps me concentrate and formulate my thoughts. I pray each day and find, without writing, my mind wanders and after twenty seconds, I’m thinking about what teams play on Monday Night Football. When writing my prayers, God gets my full attention and all my concerns.

  3. I write almost everything on paper. Usually, even my long posts are handwritten. This one was composed on a phone because I’m sick in bed. 

    The neurological processes in gear when writing with pen or pencil, computer keyboard, phone, and typewriter are all significantly different. I don’t think any one of them is superior to all others for all people. I suspect, however, that for most of us, pen/pencil and paper are best for a sort of meditative work. There’s a relaxing and distracting nature to the act of doodling while writing that allows me to step away from my inner editor and drift into the story on which I’m working. The physical act of pen to paper is also very soothing in its tactile reward. Some get a similar reward from typing on typewriters or mechanical keyboards. One of the big drawbacks to touch screens is the lack of tactile feedback. 

    I used to think it was speed related, but I can spew drivel as rapidly with a pen as with a computer. Likewise, I can tak as much time as I like with the PC and still not have a coherent product. I believe, for me, it is instead the form allowing me to see and experience the flow of the work and for some reason, on the screen, I have trouble doing that when writing or reading. I think others are just the opposite. 

    I hope this made sense. I’m even less confident on a phone. 

  4. It always works best when it is think on/with paper, refine on/with computer for me. If I try to skip a stage, there is always pain.

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