publishing on demand

Mind, Pen, Page

My last few posts have concentrated on the different effects of various mediums on readers, their output if you like, but, triggered by this eloquent article championing pen on paper featured recently in The New York Review of Books, I’ve been thinking about the effects of various methods of input on writers and their work.

And how systematic terms like ‘input’ and ‘output’ manage to constantly leak into my writing. Bah.

Aside from blogging and more technical project text, I use a pen and several different notebooks in my practice. One hard-wearing pocket notebook for ideas and notes related to projects I’m working on, as well as random thoughts and interesting words and quotes. One tiny notebook for scribbled bits of more creative writing, normally segments of poetic pieces, which are then edited and given form on a computer later, sometimes channeled longhand through paper first. One large notebook for lengthier and more fluid prose writing.

Keeping these separate is an attempt to conjure up the different frames of mind necessary for each style of writing, although inevitably they cross over, as is the nature of human thoughts. Handwriting (if you could call mine that, I exclusively use block capitals for EVERYTHING), instead of typing, is also conducive in my case to articulate ideas quicker and smoother than via a computer intermediary – from mind, to pen, to page. I intentionally left out hand, as a pen seems almost like a natural extension of it, rather than fragmented, systematic typing – even more so as I use only two or three fingers feverishly.

Using pen and paper to create, a screen to edit, then various forms of file sharing (E-mailing text to myself and others, Dropbox) to archive and disseminate material seems to me like a natural evolution of ideas and consecutive output. Like a snowball rolling downhill, accumulating stray threads of grass and loose stones, gradually gaining form and weight, then finally smashing into a multitude of pieces, spreading its essence – if you’ll forgive my poncy analogy.

making sharing

notebooks vs notebooks

I took the photo above in the Kenrokuen gardens, Kanazawa. We were standing beside the lake at the centre of these beautiful and historic gardens when I saw these two ladies. Standing side-by-side one lady was sketching what she could see using a pencil and paper notebook, the other was using her mobile phone to photograph the same view.

I was reminded of this picture when I read this post suggesting that pen and paper are mightier than the laptop. It describes a meeting of high-powered business men in which paper notebooks outnumbered the electronic version. The blog author, David Hornik, describes what he sees as the advantages of a paper notebook.

“Notebooks have certain enviable characteristics. They are instant on — even faster than a laptop with a solid state drive. They have virtually unlimited storage — just boot a new notebook when the pages are filled. And they perform better than tape for archival storage. Direct sunlight is no problem for a bright white piece of paper. And power management is rarely a problem (although your pen may run out of ink). Notebooks don’t require any connectivity. They aren’t susceptible to viruses. And they are highly portable. [1]

[1] I realize Notebooks aren’t perfect. They perform about as well as laptops when exposed to the elements. They are a terrible collaboration tool. And I have yet to see an effective way to backup your notebooks.”

Obviously, this is a relevant topic for bookleteer which uses digital processes to produce paper notebooks and it got me thinking – what are the pluses and minuses of paper vs computer notebooks?

I love my laptop but I don’t carry it more than I have to because it’s heavy (well, heavier than a paperback book), it’s precious – I don’t want it stolen or lost, and it contains *everything* – I don’t want my photos, dissertation, emails, music and to-do lists destroyed by a wayward cup of tea! On the plus side it contains *everything* and I never find I’ve left something important at home. My paper notebooks, on the other hand, are lightweight and tend to be more focused – a work notebook, a sketchbook, a project notebook.. And they hold stuff too – flower petals, tickets, business cards and so on. They’re still vulnerable to a spilt cup of tea but the consequences are probably not so serious.

So perhaps it’s not so much about ‘better’ or ‘worse’ but about being the most appropriate object for the situation or person.

What do you think? Do you prefer paper or computer notebooks? Any opinions welcome..