Writing Assignment: Pen And Paper

by Patrick Rhone on December 7, 2012


While Randy is on hiatus recovering from a writing-induced ailment, some friends are taking up the slack. Today’s post is by Patrick Rhone.


This writing assignment might be a real challenge for most of you. Especially those for whom the digital medium was a primary platform of creation from an early age. It may also be the case for those of us who adopted machinery for such tasks all too long ago. For others still, it may be easy and natural. We will see…

For this assignment I would like you to write 750 - 1000 words by hand using pen and paper. You do remember what those are, right? They are the things which you likely used to learn how to write in the first place but have barely touched since learning the word QWERTY. They are the tools with which writing was performed and perfected for nearly a thousand years before the notion of the typewriter and printed press. For most of us, it likely seems just as long since we last wrote with pen and paper. Which is exactly why I think it is high time to do so now.

In fact, it is now proven that our brains actually improve in measurable ways when writing this way. We learn more and retain more. Creative pathways are opened up as we engage more of our senses. Forming letters by strokes, as opposed to selecting each by keys, opens regions of the brain involving thinking, language, and memory that are not opened through typing. Writing, real writing, makes you smarter.

I know that, for me, there are many reasons I opt for the computer more often than the pen and paper. Here are some:

* Computers make writing easier and faster.

* I hate my tiny illegible to all but me handwriting.

* There are certain words I never seem to spell right and certain grammar I always fail at (and the computer corrects them for me).

* My handwriting is messy and full of mistakes, blobs, and errors.

* My hands cramp.

I’m betting that there are some of these that sound familiar to you as well. Here are some counter arguments to each of these:

* Embrace the truly crappy first draft. It should be full of errors, imperfect, raw, and full of mistakes. That’s the point. The point is to get the ideas down and worry about how they look, read, and sound, later.

* No one needs to be able to read this but you. Who cares about how your handwriting looks or how many mistakes there are? You can even mark it up and append additions and corrections in the margins. Pretend this is a top secret coded communiqué for your eyes only.

* Every mistake should be a sign of opportunity for improvement. Perhaps you fumbled that word or phrase because your newly opened mind knew there is a better one you could use. Don’t know how to spell a certain word? Perhaps this means you should learn it now or choose a replacement you do know how to spell.

* Your hands are cramping because you have not used these muscles in so long. The solution: Write with pen and paper more!

Here’s one more thing….

Writing in this way is a reflection of our humanity. We humans are messy, imperfect, full of little mistakes and opportunities for improvement. We are also hard to read. A computer will never be able to reflect our humanity back at us, to stare down our fears or champion our greatness, in the same way that this medium can.

So, now’s the time. Grab a pen and paper and get to work.

P.S. When you do this assignment, use a really good pen and some nice paper. A thing is made more pleasurable when the tools being used are pleasing.

The Writing Assignment: Pen And Paper by Patrick Rhone, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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