Pen and Paper

I’ve started working on writing again (in-between my long stints of reading) and I’m realizing a disturbing trend that must have started with the dry erase boards (and probably in grade school or perhaps even earlier). It is the limitation of the digital. I grant, it’s not a complete limitation but there is certainly a tendency toward predefined types of marks and predefined layouts of those marks (columns, rows, etc…). I never fully realized how limiting these predefined structures are when working towards creative ends.

A couple of weeks ago I had a great conversation with one of my professors and he reminded me of the importance of making marks without thought on the page (he’s a visual artist). In some ways I already knew this but it was one of those important nuggets that I’d forgotten the value of over the years. It reminds me of the time I re-read a beginners chess book and re-learned the value of pawn placement for a successful game (I used to play chess a lot). Somehow I had forgotten the basics while learning more advanced techniques and specifics. Re-learning the basics, however, made me a much better player and taught me a lot about the game. The same principle applies here.

I re-learned that making marks undefined or prescribed structurally increases my ability to think differently and deeply about creative topics. Ideas don’t always come in columns and rows. Ideas aren’t always defined by bold, italic, underline, and strike-through. Sometimes ideas arise from doodles. Sometimes the best ideas start on napkins. Sometimes there are seemingly unseemly scribbles and erase marks and rips and tears. Sometimes the best ideas come from the wandering mind. This past week I let my mind wander outside the box and outside the lines. Maybe you should do the same.

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