J.K. Rowling scribbled along the first 40 names of characters that could come in Harry Potter in a paper notebook. J.J. Abrams writes his first drafts in a paper notebook. Upon his come back to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs first cut through the complexity that is existing drawing an easy chart on whiteboard. Needless to say, they’re not the ones that are only…
Here’s the notebook that belongs to Pentagram partner Michael Bierut. The majority of the pages inside the notebook resemble the best side, that he had lost a particularly precious notebook, which contained “a drawing my then 13-year-old daughter Liz did that she claims could be the original sketch when it comes to Citibank logo. although he has believed to Design Observer”
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Author Neil Gaiman’s notebook, who writes his books — including American Gods, The Graveyard Book, together with final two thirds of Coraline — by hand.
And a notebook from information designer Nicholas Felton, who recorded and visualized a decade of his life in data, and developed the Reporter app.
There’s a reason why people, who possess the choice to actually use some type of computer, decide to make writing by hand a part of their creative process. And it also all starts with an improvement that individuals may easily overlook — writing by hand is extremely unique of typing.
In Writing along the Bones, author Natalie Goldberg advises that writing is a physical activity, and so afflicted with the gear you utilize. Typing and writing by hand produce very different writing. She writes, I am writing something emotional, I must write it the first time directly with hand on paper“ I have found that when. Handwriting is more connected to the movement of this heart. Yet, when I tell stories, I go right to the typewriter.”
Goldberg’s observation might have a tiny sample size of one, however it’s an incisive observation. More importantly, studies in the area of psychology support this conclusion.
Similarly, authors Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer students making notes, either by laptop or by hand, and explored how it affected their memory recall. Inside their study published in Psychological Science, they write, “…even when permitted to review notes after a week’s delay, participants who had taken notes with laptops performed worse on tests of both content that is factual conceptual understanding, relative to participants who had taken notes longhand.”
All have felt the difference in typing and writing by hand while psychologists figure out what actually happens in the brain, artists, designers, and writers. Many who originally eagerly adopted the computer when it comes to promises of efficiency, limitlessness, and connectivity, have returned back again to writing by hand.
There are a number of hypotheses that you can get on why writing by hand produces different results than typing, but here’s a prominent one which emerges from the world of practitioners:
You better understand your work
“Drawing is a way for me to articulate things inside myself that I can’t otherwise grasp,” writes artist Robert Crumb in his book with Peter Poplaski. Easily put, Crumb draws not to ever express something already he already understand, but to produce sense of something he does not.
This brings to mind a quote often attributed to Cecil Day Lewis, “ We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” Or as author Jennifer Egan says into the Guardian, “The writing reveals the story in my experience.”
This sort of thinking — one that’s done not just with all the mind, but in addition using the hands — can be applied to all the types of fields. For example, in Sherry Turkle’s “Life regarding the Screen,” she quotes a faculty person in MIT as saying:
“Students can go through the screen and work in their head as clearly as they would if they knew it in other ways, through traditional drawing for example… at it for a while without learning the topography of a site, without really getting it. You put in the contour lines and the trees, it becomes ingrained in your mind when you draw a site, when. You come to know the site in a real way do you have homework in college that isn’t possible aided by the computer.”
The quote continues within the notes, “That’s the method that you get to know a terrain — by retracing and tracing it, not by allowing the computer ‘regenerate’ it for you personally.”
“You start by sketching, then you do a drawing, then you make a model, and then you head to reality you go back to drawing,” says architect Renzo Piano in Why Architects Draw— you go to the site — and then. “You build up a kind of circularity between drawing and making and then back again.”
In the book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball, author Gordon MacKenzie likened the creative process to 1 of a cow milk that is making. We can see a cow milk that is making it is hooked up to the milking machine, and then we realize that cows eat grass. Nevertheless the part that is actual the milk has been created remains invisible.
There was an invisible part to making something new, the processes of which are obscured from physical sight by scale, certainly. But, parts of everything we can see and feel, is felt through writing by hand.
Steve Jobs said in a job interview with Wired Magazine, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel just a little guilty since they didn’t really take action, they just saw something. It seemed obvious in their mind after a while. That’s simply because they could actually connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize things that are new. Therefore the reason these were able to do which was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than many other people.”
Viewed from Jobs’s lens, perhaps writing by hand enables visitors to do the latter — think and understand more about their own experiences. Comparable to how the contours and topography can ingrain themselves in an architect’s mind, experiences, events, and data can ingrain themselves when writing out by hand.
Only after this understanding is clearer, will it be better to return to the computer. In the exact middle of the 2000s, the designers at creative consultancy Landor installed Adobe Photoshop on their computers and started using it. General manager Antonio Marazza tells author David Sax:
J.K. Rowling used this piece of lined paper and blue pen to plot out how the fifth book into the series, Harry Potter as well as the Order associated with Phoenix, would unfold. The absolute most fact that is obvious that it seems the same as a spreadsheet.
And yet, to state she could have done this in the spreadsheet would be a stretch. The magic is not into the layout, which can be only the start. It’s into the annotations, the circles, the cross outs, and marginalia. I understand that there are digital equivalents every single of those tactics — suggestions, comments, highlights, and changing cell colors, but they simply don’t have the same effect.
Rowling writes of her original 40 characters, “It is quite strange to look at the list in this notebook that is tiny, slightly water-stained by some forgotten mishap, and covered in light pencil scribblings…while I became writing these names, and refining them, and sorting them into houses, I had no clue where these were planning to go (or where these people were going to take me).”
Goldberg writes in her book, that writing is a act that is physical. Perhaps creativity is a physical, analog, act, because creativity is a byproduct to be human, and humans are physical, analog, entities. And yet inside our creative work, out of convention, habit, or fear, we restrict ourselves to, as a man would describe to author Tara Brach, “live from the neck up.”