Monday, April 6, 2015

Confessions of a Technology Refugee

I have computer burnout. I’m not even talking about writing. Between the day job, receiving endless emails from my daughter’s school to check the website to find some vital piece of information, taking online training classes for a certification I need, and filling out endless forms found on whatever website that keeps my life going, I’ve basically had enough. By the time I actually get to WRITE, which is the one thing I really want to do on the computer, I feel like I can’t sit for another minute in front of a glowing screen.

So, during a trip to Michael’s to get craft supplies for my daughter’s social studies project, I saw it—the answer to my prayers.

The sketch book in the sales bin.

The steampunky cover drew me to it but what I found inside was just what my tired brain needed—blank space and lots of it. Fresh, virgin paper. No visual information staring back at me, nothing to click to distract me from allowing my imagination to run wild.
The Notebook
Notice the papers sticking out.
Even a mystical notebook can't be
everywhere at once

I’ve been writing down my story ideas for my newest WIP and plotting in it ever since. I’ve discovered something about myself during this. I need to hand write during my creative process, at least some of the time. Once I have a clear pathway, then the computer is fine.

Turns out others have actually studied this. In “Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing” by Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay 
(DOI: 10.5772/8710), the authors state, “Typically, handwriting is…a slower process than typewriting. …the visual attention of the writer is strongly concentrated during handwriting; the attentional focus of the writer is dedicated to the tip of the pen, while during typewriting the visual attention is detached from… the process of hitting the keys. Hence, typewriting is divided into two distinct…spaces: the motor space (e.g., the keyboard), and the visual space (e.g., the screen).”

What does this mean to a visual person like me? That I want to savor the creative process and slow it down by writing my ideas in a notebook but when I want to get to work before I forget what I was thinking, I grab my computer. Each has its uses. The added bonus is that shaking things up by going back and forth between the two processes keeps my brain percolating new ideas.

The authors also address my ennui with technology. “Writing has always been dependent on technology; indeed, in a very literal sense, writing is technology, for… without the crayon or the stylus or the laptop, writing simply is not possible. From using clay tablets and animal skins via the medieval manuscript and the ancient papyrus roll, to the mechanization of writing with the printing press and the current digitization, writers have always had to handle physical devices and then [apply] these to some substrate. The outcome of the writing process has always relied on the skillful combination of technical/manual skill and intellectual/aesthetic aptitude.”

So, does this mean that the ancients sometimes threw down their papyrus roll and wished for the good old days of the chisel, hammer and cave wall so that they could get in touch with their creative roots?

What methods get your creative ideas flowing?


  1. Love it, Lisa. I say whatever gets your creativity going! Yay. I do hand-write during my plotting phase. I think it's a more left-brain activity. So it helps me when I'm trying to figure out the story or if I get stuck. When I get stuck writing, I always return to my notebook and begin to work out my thoughts on paper. Of course I've been a journaler for most of my life. I began writing in journals and diaries pretty much from the start--as soon as I could write and begin to form my own thoughts and sentences. I applaud you! Good luck. Can't wait to see the fruits of you swapping back and forth between the journal and the computer. ;0)

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Mackenzie. I have journaled off and on for years though more off than on lately. I'll remember your tip about going back to the notebook if I get stuck. :)

  2. Awesome, Lisa! What wonderful advice!

    I had an ugly three-ring binder for scribbles and it turned into my first manuscript. Now, I often have a notebook next to my laptop. Sometimes, I work out bits in the notebook even though the computer is right there. Because you're right! There's something about slowing your roll--LOL--that gets you where you need to go!

    I love your Steampunk cover and I hope writing longhand continues to free you up to write, write, write!

    1. Glad to hear ugly notebooks can turn into swans. :)

      As far as slowing down, that's a good point. Sometimes, I'm so rushed from everything else that I have been doing that it takes me time to quiet my brain to write. Maybe the notebook will help with that as well!

  3. I have SO MANY half-filled notebooks. How smart to dedicate one to a single story idea. My brainstorms get scattered about and then tracking them down becomes a chore.

    That said, I totally get your true point, which is changing your methodology can be just the ticket (see half-filled notebooks above, lol).

    Here's to the promise of a blank white REAL (not virtual) white page!!

    1. Thanks, Keely. I know what you mean about the scattered brainstorms. I have a lot of half finished notebooks from years past. I don't even KNOW what's in those. I'd gotten away from handwriting for that reason - I couldn't find it later. :)