How I found joy in paper

Ditching digital…to a point

I currently have seven notebooks on the go and another half dozen or so stashed away in drawers for future scribbling. A Moleskine Cahier is nestled in my jacket pocket for those times when a bolt of inspiration strikes when I’m out and about — an object I would sooner pick up than my Samsung smartphone. The others, ranging from simple thin (but beautiful, nonetheless) books to the more complex Evernote Moleskine, I use for a host of reasons, whether it’s idea generation for a new marketing campaign or design notes for a tabletop game I’m working on. Paper has an important role in my life.

Screens were taking over my world. I spent eight or so hours staring at two monitors at work everyday, used my phone in my lunch break and then came home to immediately boot up my laptop in order to check personal emails, Twitter and write blog posts. It’s an issue that’s becoming all too familiar, especially within my Gen-Y demographic. We’re being assaulted by instant messages, feeds, blog posts, and videos — we’re forgetting to take time out just to think for ourselves.

At the beginning of 2015, WNYC’s New Tech City launched a project called Bored and Brilliant, an initiative that highlighted this hyper-connected generation’s need to put their screens down and just be bored for once. At first this seems like a completely ridiculous thing to petition — after all, nobody likes being bored. Boredom isn’t productive, right? No, sir.

WNYC spoke to Jonny Smallwood, a professor of cognitive neuroscience, who thinks that our creativity is being dulled by the onslaught of constant stimulation from our screens:

“There’s a close link between originality, novelty, and creativity… and these sort of spontaneous thoughts that we generate when our minds are idle.”

He argues that daydreaming allows us to focus on our goals, which seems counter-intuitive but is actually quite profound. When our minds are idle they are free to dream up new ideas and allow you to be more independent in your thoughts.

Attribution: Flickr/Rory McLeod

I found that reaching for a notebook and pen when I was bored instead of my phone, laptop or tablet allowed me to be more creative in my work. With paper there’s no internet, no Twitter, no email, no Reddit, no news — no digital distractions. I found myself sitting and writing whatever I wanted to write about at that moment in time. It became a freeing experience and I began to devote certain books to certain thoughts.

At work I began to write everything in my notebook, including sketches, mind-maps and occasionally just words that helped me come up with creative ideas. I found that this enhanced my brainstorming and allowed me to conjure better ideas — something I was unable to do when just using a Word document.

Paper has become a source of comfort for me, as well as a creative outlet. Recently I listed every comic book I’m currently reading with a synopsis and star rating (this was in my Vader and Son notebook). Every now and again I write down my thoughts on a particular subject with no intention of blogging about it or sharing those thoughts on social media. The simple action of writing things down did something important — it freed up space in my brain to think about other things. Try it — note down your worries, frustrations, loves, hates and more. It’s an incredibly cathartic act that actually has some health benefits. Noting down your thoughts and feelings can help reduce stress, de-clutter your mind and solve problems more effectively.

While putting aside my screens and opting to scribbling stuff down has helped me with my creativity and stress-levels, I’m still tethered to my digital devices, and that’s not a completely bad thing. There are always going to be situations where I need a GPS, or I simply need to get in touch with a friend at that moment in time. Analog and digital can exist side-by-side quite comfortably (I’m writing this on Medium, aren’t I?). Just remember to spend a little time with just a notepad and pen — you will be amazed where it takes you.

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