What I learned from writing on paper

Categories Cliché-yey, Writing

I’ve been doing Morning Pages for a couple of years now. What are morning pages? Writing about three A4 pages of text straight from mind to paper. No editing, no conscious thinking, you just let it flow straight out of you, like a runny shit. I’ve been doing this pen to paper but I’ve considered moving this practise to the computer. But stopped myself because 1) I find it a little disconcerting to think that my thoughts are in digital format 2) I wanted to improve my handwriting. My handwriting is unique in that no one can read it, not even me.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with finding time to do the morning pages and considered typing it out, because I can type a lot faster than I can write. Then I asked myself, why am I writing this pen to paper? This post is what I found out.

Writing is more personal

Personal to me is another word for connection. The most personal things are the things you are most connected to. When you hear someone telling you “don’t get personal” all they are saying is “connect with me superficially, because superficiality doesn’t hurt me”. Writing is more personal because the distance between you and your work is zero. It’s about as connected as you can be.

Distance from brain to work is less.

In other words, distance from you to paper. When you write to paper, there’s about 20 cm from your consciousness to the paper. Sometimes, this goes down to about 10cm when you are really focusing. As per this diagram.

Your eye to screen, if you are following guidelines, should be an arms length. That’s about 30cm to 50cm depending on your reach.  

Distance from your hand to your work is zero

But in it’s purest form, the distance from you to paper is zero. There is no distance  between the nib of your pen to paper.

The circuit is complete and it starts to flow directly from you to paper.

You are fully connected to the work which you are expressing on that piece of paper.  

Edit, Cut, Paste, Undo makes you lazy, maybe a little stunted

A few years back I decided to write a letter to a friend who didn’t have email. I thought of just typing it out, but in the spirit of venturing into the unknown, I tried writing on paper, start to finish. This process lasted about 3 hours, 15 pieces of scrunched up paper but no letter. Straight after all this drama, I was back at the computer typing out the letter. As I posted it, I had this feeling of having been lost to a piece of paper.

By writing on paper you are learning to consistently organise your thoughts.

When you write on a computer, its convenience, its expression, its safe. But when you do pen to paper, you need to be more self aware because you can’t just vomit everything on the paper and stitch all of it together. You need to get your thoughts in order before you start writing, more so than you would, if you were just on a word processor. Now, this can be stifling but I find that restricting one part of your mind, usually strengthens another. You can focus your creative powers.

There might be a happy medium

At the risk of sounding like a cliched, arty, cigar smoking, neckerchief wearing twat, I think the half-way house is a typewriter. Because the ethos of the typewriter is the same, you can’t cut, edit, paste, or delete. It takes the same kind of planning as you would when writing to paper.

When I was a kid my graddad had a typewriter and I was fascinated by it. That THUMP when you press a key, it’s like you’re sculpting out of marble. And like sculpting out of marble, you can’t undo. The key you press is forever singed onto that paper. I’ll be honest, I don’t own a type writer but I’m presuming that typing would be half-way between your keyboard and writing on paper. 

If you do end up owning a typewriter then remember to hide it away, otherwise you risk looking like a cliche.

What does this all mean?

Nothing much. Now I don’t think the convenience of a word processor necessarily is  bad thing – it is an evolution. I won’t be ditching my Google Docs for an Underwood anytime soon. What I am saying is that, you should try writing on paper, expressing on paper.  I’m more connected to the process than the result.

In any art form it’s always good to understand it’s roots.

You’ll be a better cinematographer on digital if you know film.

You’ll be a better at shooting film if you know how to paint.

You’ll be a better painter if you learn to observe how lighting and colours behave around you.

Of courses there are exceptions to the rule, but either way, you stand to lose nothing by experimenting but a lot to gain.

Typing is more efficient and you’ll never see me write a screenplay on a typewriter. Bar some kind of apocalypse, at which point, writing a screenplay would get de-prioritised.

As with any form of expression, experimenting is crucial for learning. But so is restrictions. Both go hand in hand, you need to practise by letting go fully and by having your hands tied. They both teach you lessons and make you better at expressing.

So What?

Now if you are like me, you are just writing shit, then you could argue that it’s more economical to write shit in the computer. But I disagree, because shit is as part of the ecosystem as yellow daisies.

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