Type It Or Paper-And-Pen It?


Choice is the greatest blessing of this age. Writers, for example, have so much to choose from–computers, longhand, shorthand, typewriters, a little bit of everything. At my writer’s group, we often have discussions about what is the best tool to write with, and as expected, we all have fairly different opinions about our choice of tools.

Some of us like to write extensively on pen and paper, while others cannot live without their laptops. A few do a bit of both. I have been wondering lately if and how my choices make me more productive. I have been wondering because when even in this age of unending choices, people are preferring to work with the slower and seeming tedious tool–the paper and pen.


There are quite a few scientific reasons behind that, as my friend and compatriot Joe D. tells me.

Writing on paper engages the brain in a different way. Studies show that writing on paper stimulates the right brain more than typing does. And look where the creative capital of the brain resides–the right side of course. So, as writers and creative people, using a pen and paper to work on our ideas might be mighty beneficial. However, the left brain is not entirely useless either. That is where logic makes home and we need that logic up and running at 100mph when we are putting together drafts, editing, fact-checking–also essential parts of the writing enterprise. In conclusion, it seems like it is better if we use both tools, but use it more or less depending on which part of the project we are actively engaged in at a particular time.

Writing on paper slows us down and isolates us. And that’s a good thing sometimes. It allows us to detach ourselves from the rush, and lets peace of mind trickle in. That in turn brings clarity in our thoughts. I have always found it better to curl up with my notebook and pencil and start working on my outlines, away from the distraction of tweets and the allure of checking Facebook or Pinterest every now and then.

In the end though, I realize that everything has its place. Will I be half as productive if I were to write entirely the paper and pen way? Of course not. I might be a tad more creative, but I will probably take 3-4 years to write a novel. And that doesn’t sound like a great prospect.

So, why not mix it up? Let’s use what is best suited for a task.

I had, unwittingly for the most part, divided up my writing process and assigned tools to each. I did that just on the basis of what seemed to work best–mostly from experience and a gut feeling. I do both–longhand and laptop. I use a plain old notebook to do my outlines. Almost always. I have failed miserably when I tried outlining on a computer. And that makes sense to me in hindsight, because outlining is the most creative part of story-building and my natural instinct was to seek paper and pen.

But after that, starting with writing the drafts, is all on a computer. Here I need speed and since filling up the outline is mostly a linear and directional process, here’s where the left brain kicks in. Suddenly writing by hand doesn’t seem as necessary or effective. I switch over.

Everyone has a different sensibility. Absolutely true. Obviously, my methods will not work for everyone. We need to find what suits us and what suits our brains the best. A lot of renowned authors nowadays choose to hand write their first drafts. There must be benefits of that then, right?

So trust your instincts. And experiment. With a bit or trial and error, you will surely find the right balance.

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.

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Posted in on writing
2 comments on “Type It Or Paper-And-Pen It?
  1. Humberto says:

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