The Pen Is Mightier than the Laptop

A January article from Mental Floss, “Four Benefits of Writing by Hand,” explains that to write longhand increases understanding when class notes are recopied longhand, slows us down and let’s us think in more complete sentences, provides better focus than using a computer, and engages motor skills and memory that help keep our aging brains from deteriorating. I’ve long urged other writers, especially beginners to be aware of the physicality of writing. To pay attention to the tools of the trade and the ergonomics of hours spent at the desk.

Then there are the advantages of not using high tech tools, many of which were highlighted for me this week: issues of incompatability between new software and an old (three years) operating system, issues of software technical support where the supporter knows even less than the supportee, issues of a printer that chokes on an envelope and requires heavy lifting, partial disassembly and surgical precision with tweezers to clear its print head, after which the device, as it likes to call itself, becomes hysterical and compulsively cleans the print head about a dozen times, like a cat that stepped in something foul. Turned off and ignored for an hour, it regained its composure and decided that the real problem was hunger—it lacked enough ink to function properly. Then, of course, there is the wifi connection that with no apparent provocation ceased to talk to any of the other devices in the building. Some subtle electronic insult about its origins or the coating of dust it wears as camouflage.

Unfortunately, I live and write in a world that demands digital production. I cannot submit work to editors without email or an online “submission manager.” I cannot upload or download unless all the mysterious and arcane devices both local and remote are working. At times I wonder if I should just reload and blast these blasted devices to pieces. A pen and paper are so much more quiet and submissive, less defensive and subject to whining. Unlike me, I’m going to go suck my thumb and curl up with a good book–definitely not an eReader today.

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