from my cold dead hands, or: why i won't "get over it" and ditch the pen

[inspired by "12 Reasons to Ditch the Pen"]

The death of the pen is not being replaced by digital writing tools. The pen might be, but that doesn't mean it should be forgotten and forsaken. Just because some new technology works for one person doesn't mean I should go all in on it, too.

I admit that I like the feel of writing by hand, but I'm more impressed with how cursive looks on the page, even with how I look while writing. I revel in those compliments about my handwriting. I smile at the shocked faces of colleagues, strangers and students when they see that I still write with a pen. How can someone who studies computers and writing, social media, or videogames still write like that? Well, this is how.

I write by hand because I lost everything due to a zip disk error while in undergrad. I lost the paper I was writing at the time. I lost all previous coursework. I lost every essay I wrote in high school. I lost every terrible poem, every awful short story. That loss taught me to never put complete trust in a computer again. Everything I write now is handwritten first. Everything. This includes blog entries, emails and even Twitter updates. And there's nothing for me to "get over," because this method, this outdated, time-wasting method of writing by hand, works. I make it work. 

Writing by hand doesn't mean you are irrelevant to yourself, your colleagues or your students. It means you understand what technology works for you and in what capacity. 

The computer keyboard is not the same as a pen and paper. I need a Pilot G2 .05 with blue ink and a blank page from a Moleskine notebook in order to write. This approach, this method focuses me and my thoughts to an indescribable degree. 

Taking notes is not an outdated skill; neither is taking notes with a pen an outdated skill. Ask my #eng112 students who just completed Pop Up Scholarship and the newfound value they have for writing in the margins of academic articles. 

Being fast isn't (and shouldn't be) everything. Writing by hand forces me to take the time to really develop my ideas first to myself before putting them anywhere else. 

Handwriting means that editing happens during transcription. One sentence handwritten often becomes a full paragraph typed. I fail to see any harm in recopying either as it's important to back up everything, whether analog or digital. 

I don't do much collaborative work (which is unfortunate, I know), so the ease-of-editing-by-others argument doesn't apply to me. I do think, though, that writing by hand can, in the end, better facilitate collaboration as it adds another layer of earlier editing. But how does writing by hand prevent the sharing of ideas and the making of meaning? This one extra step between having an original thought and sharing it is not a big deal. Writing by hand gives me an additional filter, perhaps making me think twice about something before posting it online.

With a pen in hand, I don't waste time figuring out spelling and grammar. I never have to worry about red, squiggly lines appearing under my words. I annotate when I can't think of a word (or how to spell it) and come back to them later. 

If you have any idea of how to organize anything, there's no reason for clutter if you write by hand. I've been using the same black Moleskine notebooks for years now. Sure, I can't tag or apply a Google search, but it wasn't very difficult to develop (and refine) my own unique system for finding particular entries.

Since I know my own writing and my searching system, it is much more satisfying in terms of results. 

My Moleskine notebook is a working file cabinet and it's with me wherever I go. A single notebook isn't burdensome, no matter the book bag, briefcase, etc. All the ideas and information I need fit in one notebook, which lasts about nine months before it's full and I need to start a new one. 

I don't need an Internet connection or even electricity when writing by hand. A pen and paper are all I need. These physical materials aren't the end in itself, of course, only the beginning. Together, they are a beginning I want to never lose.


Also: the idea that ditching the pen and paper and going digital is an environmentally friendly move is laughable.

Also, too: initial commentary on Google Buzz about "12 Reasons" and my response

Also, too, also: Jerrid Kruse's comment on "12 Reasons"