I began a piece on Monday that opened with the line “I’ll be brief, since Hurricane Sandy is being fickle and playing with my suburban Philadelphia household’s lights….” and almost immediately lost power for about 16 hours. This, ironically, leads into the major issue I’d hoped to bring to everyone’s attention. Lifehacker had a weekend discussion piece asking “When do you prefer pen and paper?” I’d hoped to talk about using pen & paper while developing ideas, or sketching the outlines of whatever I intend to write.
Most people (myself included), have forgone the old archaic modes of transcribing thought and speech to the proverbial paper. The digital revolution not only brought us spell check and changed our tactile connection to our writing, but also has changed the way we relate to previous versions of work (no more hard copies of manuscripts!). Certain applications lend themselves to one or the other. Making a to-do list? It’s kinda annoying to have to scroll to the appropriate iphone app just to see if I need to Remember The Milk (I’m assuming virtually nobody takes their netbook to the grocery store). On the other hand, if you’re working on an academic piece, with tons of sources to cite, you know that there’s been no greater god-send than electronic source management systems, both on and off-line. Ultimately, you’ll use the best tool for the job, but for most applications in our rapidly modernizing world, I think that computers win out. There’s a host of arguments on both sides, as writers choose sides between nostalgia and modernity, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.
My verdict? Go analog as a change of pace in your work. From time to time, it can help you step out of a rut, or better connect to an editing project. For the most part though, if it’s going to wind up electronically distributed at some point, we may as well continue to get used to the soft back-lit glow of our laptops.