Remember Writing With Pen and Paper?

Remember when people wrote things down on paper instead of typing into a cell phone?

I do.

Throughout much of my life I have carried around a little notebook to record my thoughts, make grocery lists, and calculate how many degrees from Kevin Bacon my family members and I are removed. Sometimes I have used an inexpensive spiral notepad from the drugstore. Other times I have used the fancy schmancy leather-bound notebooks with the attached elastic band, used by great artists such as Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and “Wendy” the Snapple Lady. The only criteria for my notebook was that it was easy to carry in my pocket and could double as a wedge to prop up a rickety table.

In my experience, being at a social gathering and taking out a little notebook and writing in it is kind of like setting yourself on fire. It tends to get attention.

“Are you writing about me?” my friend asks.

I assure him that I am not writing about him.

“I don’t believe you,” he says. “I want to know what you are writing. Let me see.”

I assure him, again, that I am not writing about him and that he cannot see my notebook. I say this because my work is private. I say this also because I have written things about him. To be careful, I close the notebook and focus my attention on the South Park rerun we’re all watching.

A few moments later I feel a tugging at my pocket. I turn and it is the same friend trying to pull the notebook out of my pocket. “What are you doing?” I ask.

“I want to see what you’re writing about me.”

“You’ll never see what I’m writing about you. And I’m not writing anything about you.”

I get up and move to another part of the room. Although standing in the closet might be considered a bit strange, I figure that this is the only way I can write unmolested. Unfortunately, there is no light in the closet so I must make my best guess as to how to form the letters on the page. Soon there is a knock at the door.

“Yes?” I reply, scribbling in the dark.

“What are y0u doing in there?” asks my curious friend.

“I’m doing research on coats of North America. There are some interesting specimens in here.” I rattle some coat hangers to support my story.

“Are you writing in there?”

“No. Why would I do that?”

“I want to know what you’re writing about me.”

It suddenly occurs to me that if I had been typing on a cell phone instead of writing with a pen and paper, no one would have said anything. They would have thought I was just being rude by texting instead of being rude by writing. I feel like I’m going to get sent to the Gulag if I don’t change my act. When my friend opens the door I have my notebook pressed against my ear as if it is a cell phone, and I’m talking into it. “Mm hm. Okay. Sounds good. Let’s circle back sometime next week.” My friend looks confused and closes the door. I keep talking for a few more minutes so that my ruse is not exposed.

A month ago I bought one of those cell phones that is basically like a hand-held computer. Now, whenever I want to take notes I can pretend I’m just texting or emailing or searching for videos of street fights between Mets fans and Yankees fans.

“What are you writing?” my friend asks me while I’m writing on my cell phone.

“Nothing,” I say. “I’m just texting or something.”

“You can’t fool me. The screen is lighting up your face. I want to know what you’re writing.”

Alas, the technology change has not worked. There is nothing I can do to hide my compulsion to take note of the world around me. But I will never tell him or anyone else what I’m writing. That is for me and me alone. And whoever reads my blog.

Thanks to Chris Calabrese for the topic.

17 thoughts on “Remember Writing With Pen and Paper?

  1. LOL – great post! I find when I’m beginning a new chapter or a new story, my drafts begin best with the old pen and paper, then I can move to the laptop and stay there. Something about the movement of my hand on the paper helps me in the early stages of the creative process.

  2. I vaguely remember writing with a pen/pencil in a notebook. Somewhere in my collection of clutter I have a box of such notebooks to prove it too.

    Actually, I’ve become so accustomed to typing or texting that writing with a pen/pencil feel strange. And I find my handwriting is a bit sloppier as well.

    PS: In high school I wrote a totally rocking report on scarves of the world that might nicely compliment your North American Coat research.

    1. Come to think of it, when I write with pen and paper my hand gets cramped a lot sooner than it used to. No way I would make it to ninth period now. And you should post your scarf report.

  3. Hahaha. I’m sure that if your buddy was drunk enough to persist in going after your notebook, you probably could have handed it to him upside down and told him you were writing in Russian and he would have believed you.

    Have you tried any mobile applications for note taking or writing?

  4. Good post! I still carry around a little notebook to make notes, lists, and write phone numbers and addresses in. Old school I know, but what if something happens to my phone? Everything would be lost. And I remember things much better when I actually write them down.

    1. Thank you. Old school, new school – little notebooks rule. And I agree with you about remembering better. When I write things down, I no longer need the paper because I remember just by writing. This memorization technique comes in handy when I lose the paper I wrote on.

  5. i use to be able to write for hours with pen and paper and lately whenever i sit at the computer and type its easier than pen and paper. i feel stuck with pen and paper.

  6. I carry a Moleskine around with me and love scribbling random thoughts in it. Even if it is about how peaceful the sky looks at that moment when I’ve a pen and a book. But yeah… these days, the only time I can pull it out to scribble is when I’m waiting for a friend at a cafe. Which is why all my notes are on my cellphone and emailed.

  7. hilarious.. I could’t stop laughing till the end. And I still write my thoughts in a note book till this moment, there is something special about a paper and a pen, it makes things more personal and special.And I’v read once that you can know the exact psychological state you were in at the time of the writing , which can’t be known if it was typed.

  8. Ugh, this is so true. I also carry a small notebook with me, as well as a *gasp* day planner. Like, an actual paper planner. I am constantly being harassed for using it instead of my phone’s calendar feature. Glad to see I’m not the only one who still likes to put pen to paper. Thanks for the laugh! 🙂

  9. This is bringing back memories of my attempt to fill up an entire full sized notebook with writing. Everywhere I went, my friends and school mates would want to know what I was writing. Very ambiguously I would reply, “A story.” On several occasions, the notebook was snatched from me and I had to perform some impressive acrobatics to retrieve it before my writing could be read, inevitably drawing the entire attention of the classroom to me. Amazing how fast you can move when your private writing is under threat.

    After a while, people just sort of came to accept my eccentricities as normal behavior (Score!) and would actually ask how close I was to filling it up completely. Ah nostalgia. (I also wrote every page in purple ink, and it wasn’t until I was on my last 13 pages that someone bothered to point out the irony of writing prose with a purple pen :P)

    Nice blog. I’m enjoying reading through your posts and laughing. Love your voice. North American coat research indeed.

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