Romancing the Pen


In 2014, research was published that showed students learned better taking notes with the old standbys paper and pen than clicking away on an electronic device. The process of physical writing that stimulated paraphrasing and summarizing was labelled Desirable Difficulty. That sounds like a good moniker for the stress and strain involved in the creative writing process to produce a novel, short story, essay, or poem. Interviews with successful, famous writers indicate many of them start their writing day sharpening a lead pencil and turning to a fresh page on their yellow legal pads. But how to get these words into the electronic format needed to publish in today’s book business?

Digital world to the rescue: Here are just a few of the apps available to convert those inky scratches on that parchment into electronic messages that can be saved and sent off to that happy place in the sky called The Cloud:

  • For a mere $100, pen-friendly devices such as iPad Pro will enable you to write, sketch, edit and then apply an app that stores your words where you can find them next day.
  • Sony’s Digital Paper turns your words into PDF files to edit, organize, or share with others.
  • Moleskin makes the Smart Writing Set which digitizes everything you draw or write to a companion app in real time.
  • Rocketbook makes reusable, inexpensive notebooks that can be wiped clean with a moist towel or a quick spin in the microwave. By circling a destination on the screen, your work will immediately be delivered to the selected destination.
  • The simplest conversion can be writing with that #2 pencil on that yellow legal pad and then taking a picture of it with your cell phone! Easy-peasey then to upload to the internet.

So, after all, handwriting remains an integral part of our writing practice and our digital lives. But one must remember the disadvantages: your hard copy could be eaten by your dog; you can’t search for a word’s definition by pressing on the paper; you can’t share it on Facebook. But, then again, pencils don’t need recharging.


6 thoughts on “Romancing the Pen

  1. “You can’t search for a word’s definition by pressing on the paper…” That’s funny. Another reason, not funny, is all the space paper takes up. I have a pile of tiny notebooks with notes from conferences and workshops. If I make images, I can throw away the pretty little notebooks and organize the notes by event. I’ll actually be able to find things I wrote long ago.

    1. Yes – there are pros and cons to both paper and electronics. It may be a vestigial reaction that makes one want to save journals, notebooks, files? Hmmmmmmmmm.

  2. As soon as I read this I thought of my late pop, he would write out things he wanted to remember, when I was a teenager he was studying at night and would write out pages of things he needed to learn and remember

  3. Yes, research indicates physical action prompts the brain to store information. For me, I recall the rewriting of notes taken in a class lecture in college always seemed to stick in my brain better. However, that took twice as much time! Hmmmm.

  4. Dear Judith, this was a timely posting for me as I am getting ready to research a historical novel. There’s going to be lots of notes. And I’ve been considering how to do this. Thanks for the tips. Peace.

  5. Historical novels are the best of both worlds – facts spicing up fiction. I joined my local genealogical society when I started my current WIP. It was the perfect place to find pioneer diaries and fun to turn pages that were written my the campfire on the red river trail. Enjoy.

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