write differently

Each writing technology has its place and function that are unlike and unsuited for the others.

Greg Fazekas
Apr 9, 2022
3 min read

I'm writing this on a 6th generation iPad Mini, in longhand, using the second generation Apple Pencil with MyScript's Nebo software. (Not an ad.)

Screenshot of longhand writing using the MyScript Nebo app on an iPad
iPad + Apple Pencil + MyScript Nebo = ❤️

After I'm done, I copy the handwritten text into Ulysses (still not an ad), edit it, and upload it to the blog you're reading now.

This process doesn't include paper or (real) ink, but still quite different from what a large majority of people are doing. That's five, we're all different and this works for me.

But the reason I'm writing this isn’t to show off my workflow (although it's pretty cool, if I say so myself) but to muse on a thought I had. On Reddit, interestingly enough, which I mostly use on my phone.

I love technology. But I don't worship it. Any technology is a tool to make a specific task easier, or allow us to solve a particular problem at all.

Writing can be made faster and more efficient with technology. Yet the objective always stays the same: materialize (in a manner of speaking) something "unreal" (a thought) into something "real" (meaning sharable).

Maybe it's because of this peculiar state of its elements that writing is an art. Neither component is particularly "real" so we have a lot more freedom of solving the problem of making something unsharable into sharable.

We have many ways to write, from longhand to typewriters to computers to dictation. What we don't do well, historically, is applying new technologies in the right ways.

Writing is a creative act, with multiple ways to solve any problem. Typing on a computer is faster than typing on a typewriter or writing with a pen. But "faster" does not equal "better" — it doesn't even equal "same." We write differently in pen, not just mechanically but creatively.

Technology tends to allow us to work faster, and when changing technologies we enjoy that change of speed but not consider the change in creativity. One major shift digital-writing gives us is a lack of finality to our thoughts. It's easy to delete something you wrote on a computer. Even when I'm writing longhand on an iPad, a single stroke removes the thought. Not so much with ink pens or typewriters.

The lack of permanence (or lack of transience on the other side) isn't generally accounted for. That's when the disappointment happens.

Training ourselves to recognize the difference takes conscious effort, just like learning a new language, playing a new instrument, painting with airbrush instead of a paintbrush all do. Interestingly, however, writing rarely gets the same leniency as other art forms or skills. Which is yet another way writing is undervalued, but that's a whole other conversation.

My point is, don't discard a new way of writing because you can't write the same way you did with the other. You’re not supposed to.

You won't write as fast with a pen as you do on a keyboard, but that's the point. You have to restrict yourself, slow down, and be more intentional with every word. On the other hand, using a keyboard should free you up from having to be intentional and let yourself for your thoughts, as it were) run unrestricted. Space in digital is free and unlimited. Editing is easy. And there is no waste.

I love writing. I like making a beautiful mess in ink on paper, where the page shows the birth of a poem with all the mistakes and dead ends preserved, or resurrected. I like writing personal posts and prose on my iPad, and having the convenience of digital together with the different creative trigger of longhand. And when it comes to my day job, I can be fast using the laptop because the point is the end result, not the historical record or my enjoyment of the process.

Each writing technology has its place and function appropriate to the type of writing I want to do. It took me a while to figure this out, and I figured it might help someone get there faster.

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