In Part One of Digital vs Print & Paper, I talked about why I prefer reading a print copy of a book rather than using an e-reader. This post is going to be coming at the topic from my perspective as a writer, rather than a reader. Again, I acknowledge the firm irony that I am writing this on a computer, to be consumed in a digital format, but what would I choose if that was not the case?

Writing is a bit different to reading. For books and literature I would always choose a book over digital. For articles, I naturally read 99% of them on a computer. I say 99% because when I was student if I had to read a really long complex article I would print it out in order to scribble/highlight all over it. I find it much easier to concentrate on long tracts of text when they’re printed rather than on a screen. I think my eyes get tired otherwise.

Unlike reading, I write wherever I can: my phone, paper, a journal, a napkin, my hand etc. Ideas tend to strike me at oddest of times, so I make a note on whatever is available. When I first started writing poetry I was on a train, and was so wrote most of it on my phone. At least my first thirty poems were written on my phone. I also write a lot of my poetry on the bus so naturally a lot of that is done on my phone because that’s the easiest thing to hand (I do scribble some of it in a notebook, although when we’re on bumpy roads the writing can get bit indecipherable).

Wrting 2 - Calum MacAulay
Photo by Calum MacAulay on Unsplash

So here my opinion is a bit more split – I’m more flexible about writing using digital technology than I am about reading. It’s quicker, and it can be saved in multiple places, as well as transferred fairly easily. Having said that, one thing I do like doing on my days off is going to a coffee shop nearby and spending time scribbling in my notebook working on various drafts. I even have a fountain pen that I like to write with. It’s so hipster that it almost hurts.

I think where you write does make a difference to the content you create. I’ve noticed that a lot of the poems I wrote on my phone have very short lines. This is probably because the phone cuts the line off in places, and it becomes irritating to write longer sentences that then constantly have to be formatted. I didn’t consciously make this decision, it’s just something that seemed to happen because of the tool I was using. When writing on paper, or on a computer, I tend to write longer poems, or ones with more drifting lines. Again, not conscious, but it could be to do with the physical space I have available to write in.

If you’re a writer which do you prefer? Good old fashioned pen and paper? Or do you jot things down in your phone, or wait until you’re near a computer? Let me know in the comments!

Posted by:isabellahume

19 replies on “Digital vs Print & Paper (Part Two)

  1. Sitting here watching the rain & writing out my Spanish notes longhand on file-paper because I know they’re more likely to stick in my brain… seriously, most writing I do on laptop or desktop because editing is easier and because it will be published anyway so why duplicate a task? More private stuff is often hand-written (so my enemies won’t be able to read it ha-ha) diaries & personal memoirs, that kind of thing. Yet given I have so much tech around, I’m astonished at how many bits of paper there are everywhere. I will not photograph my desk!

    1. Yeah all my personal things are written longhand. You say that your enemies wouldn’t be able to read it – do you write in a code? I was thinking of making one up for my diaries. My desk is also a horrendous mess πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚.

  2. When talking about reading, of course I prefer physical copies than e-books. I own more e-books though because I live in a very remote place where there are no bookstores around. When I’m writing, I prefer using my phone or laptop. It’s easier for me and more convenient. I enjoy writing on paper, yes, but I mostly experience writer’s block when I’m staring at a blank sheet. Also, my handwriting is really messy.

  3. In the end then, does the method of putting thoughts into a form that can be retained and passed on matter that much? Start with a clay block and stylus. Move on to a quill, ink and paper or parchment. All pre 20th century writers had nothing else. Then came the typewriter and many great works have been created on those clunky keyboards. No great step to the word processor and then the computer, using the same keyboard. Editing is just a damned sight easier.

    I wonder if, when printing appeared in Europe, there were people who refused to read this newfangled nonsense and insisted on handwritten copies only.

    Your literary gems will come from your mind, not from whatever piece of machinery you care to use to preserve them.

    1. I think the way we are writing often dictates what comes out at that moment. I don’t know, something about writing on my phone means I’m often doing it quickly, whereas on paper it feels more relaxed..?

  4. I use whatever is most handy, but find my writing is more fluid on line. Digital does a better job of keeping up with random thoughts!

  5. It is true that the medium you write with/ on affects your writing. You mentioned writing on phone cuts your line lengths unintentionally, but additionally, the feeling of holding a beautiful fountain pen and the smooth feel of a nice pad always makes the words flow more freely. Sadly, these days it just isn’t practical anymore.

    1. Having said that – I do have a fountain pen (not a very expensive one mind!) and I try and make it a point to go every fortnight or so to a coffee shop with a notebook and that pen to see what will come out. I try not to use my phone at all whilst I’m there… πŸ™‚

      1. That would be blissful. I would love to have time to do that. You are so lucky! I barely have enough time to keep my one post a week going on my blog.

        If you haven’t already and fancy, I would be really grateful if you checked out my site. Leave a like or comment if you wish and if it strikes you and you hit ‘follow’, it will make my day!

  6. My handwriting is dreadful so it’s always done digitally. Although I struggle with doing long sessions of writing on a phon, think the screen and the keyboard is a tad restricting. Happily (loudly) tip-taping away on a laptop is my preferred method of nonsense generation. Nice read!

    1. I think I’m a bit more restricted because I don’t have a laptop (although I would like one!) So when I go out and about its phone or notebook! Thanks for commenting!

  7. For me it depends. To read, a book or a paper, like you. To write, if an idea spontaniously pops into my head, my natural instinct is to write it down before it leaves my head. But if I am given a prompt to write a narrative or long essay, then I like typing it. It’s more for creative writing that I like to actually write it. Interesting post!

  8. This is a great topic Isabella. Thanks for opening up the conversation. It seems ages since I wrote creative or poetic work using pen or pencil and paper. For me, the ability to instantly edit my own work has become part of the conversation I have with myself as I write, which is both therapeutic and practical. I still marvel that my ability to find my work on the internet also has the potential, if I allow, to let others from around the world read it. Before the computer revolution had really taken over, I remember well suggesting to my poets in my high school creative writing classes that they physically post their poems on a public bulletin board, anonymously if they so desired. I shared their mixed motivations and emotions! On the one hand, they desperately wanted to be read. On the other, going anonymous meant they had the option of sidling up to the board if a group of readers had gathered and might be verbalizing their opinions about the work. If the readers said complimentary things, wonderful! But going anonymous was a double edged project. If negative things were said about the work, they (and I, if I were in their shoes) might slink away in defeat and feel wounded. Then again, if they did own up to their work, they might get compliments based on people wanting to be polite. So then, was it real support and was the feedback genuine? As for writing on scraps of paper when I was very young , I really do not miss worrying about where I might have left the hard copies, or if they might be found by readers whom I did trust. In fact, what hard copies I have been able to retrieve in the last 5 years or so, I have tried to type and file so as to keep them for posterity, at least. I do worry t though about the art of handwriting being in serious decline, including my own, and I worry that the relationship between the visual, hand eye stuff like doodling and sketching as we write. This important part of hand/eye creativity could be a lost, unless we cultivate parallel art and cursive skills using the computer screen. Even more so if, in a few more years, we succumb to speaking our thoughts without even bothering to type them and let Google interpret and type out our random ramblings or even thoughtful ideas.

    1. Very interesting comment, although I do believe that perhaps handwriting/sketching/doodling might be making a comeback in the bullet journal craze. I also think there will always be people like me, who write in diaries, and therefore keep the art alive. Having said that I do think that technology has a serious impact on the way we communicate face to face, as I often find myself trailing off or struggling for words when speaking because I don’t have predictive text – that’s incredibly sad and awful but I think it is a product of having had it for over half my life just suggesting what to say! Very scary!

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