From Pencil Back To Ballpoint, From iPad Back To Paper?

I like my iPad, and I use it a lot, but it’s remarkable how many ripples it’s caused in how I do things, my habits, and even my sense of comfort.

It’s taken me until this week to feel once again like I’m tuned in to my work, but I’m still not as connected as I was before using paper. In my earlier post on using the iPad for getting things done, I thought I might be back to paper in a month. It’s been just short of that, and I’m still using it, but more and more I’ve been toying with going back to the paper system.

I’ve been writing a lot less in my journal. This I put off to much of the formerly writing time being taken up with reading. The iPad makes a lot of content much easier to consume, and between Zite and Feeddler there’s more than enough to read. So I spend more time reading about what other people are thinking and doing and less time on my own thinking and doing. I think this has made me a bit restless with an unspecific feeling that I’m not doing or being enough. Drive is good, but restlessness is not.

Looking over the last pages of my journal I see a lot more blue ballpoint than pencil. That would be a medium blue Fisher cartridge in a Caran d’Ache 849 pen – a very functional combination. It wasn’t a conscious move. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide pencil was out and pen was in, but looking back I notice that when I started carrying the iPad instead of paper files, I also went to a smaller bag – specifically my small Timbuk2 Messenger Bag – and my awesome Nomadic pencil case just didn’t fit as easily.  Wood pencils don’t carry very well outside of a case, or without a cap, and it’s better to carry a few to keep sharpening down. So without the Nomadic, there’s no pencils.

Another observation is that I’ve pretty much stopped drawing since I stopped using pencils. This one is harder to explain, because I’ve drawn in ballpoint in the past. Is the lack of pencil the cause of the lack of drawing, or is the lack of interest in drawing causing the lack of interest in carrying pencils? Not sure, but it’s not doing my learn-to-draw goal much good.

Maybe today I’ll switch back and see how it goes.


9 thoughts on “From Pencil Back To Ballpoint, From iPad Back To Paper?

  1. I totally agree and am similarly considering a return to paper. My concerns have to do with leaving a record for the future. It’s not that I feel like anyone really would want to read what I have to say. But maybe they will. And they’re not going to have much if all they have is my digital record. People throughout history have been compelled to try and leave some sort of a mark of their existence on the planet. We really do need to consider the effect of new technology on our lives, before we allow too much of it to enter into our lives.


  2. Hi Teri,

    Thanks for the comment!

    I did make the switch back – and I feel better. I’ll be posting on it shortly.

    I’m not sure that paper has much advantage over digital in preservation – anything posted to the web can be remarkably persistent – but it sure FEELS a lot more archival, and it’s a lot more personal.

    You’re right on with the effect new technology has on our lives. The iPad really was disruptive for a while. Now, I better understand where it really brings value, and where it can cause trouble.


  3. There’s always that technolust for new gadgets. In some ways, I’d like an iPad. In other ways, I don’t really know how useful it would be. I tend to cycle back and forth between digital and analog. (Which is sort of a bizarre statement from someone who telecommutes and has two computers on the desktop.)

    I picked up a small notebook on ebay this week. It was used from 1920-1921. I just got it so haven’t really had a chance to learn much other than the person that owned it was a man, probably a farmer. He doesn’t have any details about himself other than to note his spending and detail some recipes for cleaning hats. It’s hard to imagine the same info would be interesting if left as a text document.


  4. You might want to take a look at this: link Be sure and follow the link to the Harold Rheingold article. I think about that a lot when I try and figure out how I feel about technology. It’s interesting to consider what sort of people we turn into when we add some new gadget into our lives.


  5. Like everyone here, it seems we pivot often from paper to screen and back again in bursts of productivity and desire. I have had to come to terms with what purpose I was attaching to each of the mediums in order to determine its use. It’s the old the medium is the message. When I journal, for example, my discursiveness is best served on paper; when I begin to collate notes for an essay it makes sense to be able to slot text in and move it around a screen. In broad strokes, generative phases are completed on the page, the finishing touches are for the screen and besides, everything I compose and commit to the screen can, and will be, printed.


    1. Yes, I go back and forth, sometimes frequently and without notice. Just the other day I got the urge to go back to pencil. Wasn’t strong enough, so I’m still in ballpoint. Usually, I get the urge to sell a bunch of fountain pens and in the process of getting them ready for sale I fall in love with them again.


  6. “I’m not sure that paper has much advantage over digital in preservation”

    I have little emotional connection to past work in digital form (barring my recorded music). Even my hand drawn notes in Evernote lose… some sort of nostalgia, meaning and affect. And this, more than anything, is the reason why I keep to-dos, project lists and notes. I love that experience of opening a journal and being transported back in time. If my kids get a kick out of reading their ol’ mans neurotic, and oft self-deprecating ramblings, so be it!

    p.s. I’m no luddite – I own, and no longer use (sigh), Omnifocus, Things, The Hit List and more.


    1. I have to agree that going back over old handwritten notes yields memories far in excess of what the writing should prompt, and I’m also amazed at how much better my drawings look to me long after I drew them. Well, _some_ of them anyway!


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