Every day for the past decade or so, I have carried a small notebook and a pen (Pilot G-2 or GTFO) in the front pocket of my jeans that I bring out when I have an idea about something or I observe something that I think may be worth remembering. I picked up this habit when I got really into David Sedaris and started imitating everything about him that I could except for the having sex with males thing.
These days, people like to rip on me for still using a pen and paper. They wonder why I carry this notebook around instead of just jotting notes down on my phone. Which I do, eventually. I transfer all my ideas to Evernote documents. I find that writing them out by hand and then transferring them allows me to better flesh out the ideas, and to dispose of the ones that suck. (These usually are written down when I’m hammered drunk.)
People are even more surprised when I tell them that before I type anything for a story, essay, blog post, advertisement, or erotic fan fiction, I write down some thoughts and outlines in another larger notebook. Sometimes it’s a Moleskine because I’m super pretentious and a nerd for stationary, and other times it’s just a yellow legal pad.
I will defend handwriting in notebooks until the day I die. Here are a few reasons why:
- You think differently when you’re writing by hand. I assume that most of you are able to type a sentence or thought more quickly when you’re typing than when you’re writing by hand. I know I can, and by a lot. This is great most of the time, but not always. When you’re writing by hand, it’s a little bit more tedious and time-consuming, sure, but you think more about each word you’re writing down, since each one takes more physical effort and you don’t have such rampant access to a delete key. If you write before you type, it provides a nice tool for revision..
- Notebooks, stationary, and handwriting are personal. You can toss some stickers or a cover on your laptop, but it’s just not the same as having a notebook in the color, design, and rule that you choose, filled with whatever in the hell you want in it. You can extend this notebook and pen stationary personalization to the entirety of your desk, cubicle, or office if you have one. I used to be all Moleskine all the time until I discovered all the awesome colors and personalization capabilities that poppin. offers at their online store.
- Handwriting helps eliminate distractions. When you’re writing on the computer, you probably have a tendency to type three words and then check your Twitter and a bunch of websites. Before you know it, you’ve written six words over a period of 20 minutes, but you have gained a lot of knowledge about Lindsay Lohan that you never really wanted in your head in the first place. If you sit down with a notebook in a quiet room and get to it, then you’re less likely to be distracted. The only thing you can do, really, is doodle, and it won’t be long before you’re like “Why in the hell am I drawing Snoopy pictures right now instead of finishing up this short story about the time my arch-nemesis’s wife tried to get me to impregnate her?”
- Notebooks provide very tangible evidence that you have created something. I keep all of my notebooks. It’s not because I don’t trust the cloud or whatever, but I love being able to look at a stack of books that is indicative of the thoughts and writings I’ve done through the years. It’s easy to lose track of how productive you’re being when most of your stuff is kept on a computer or in some digital vault.
- Handwritten letters are always better. Especially if they’re love letters. Ladies love handwritten love letters. If you’re not writing the occasional letter to your lady, you’re doing it wrong. Again with the tangibility. She knows that you sat down and wrote this thing for her. It carries more meaning than a simple email.