My Writing has Gone Retro

I’m a huge believer in pen-to-paper writing, or as my cousin, Darnell Arnoult calls it, the power of the pen on the page. As a songwriter, I’ve always found it interesting that the songs I start writing on paper get recorded at higher percentages than the ones I start on a laptop. I have no idea if it’s true for anyone else, but it has been for me.

I recently started taking a new class (y’all know I’m always up into something), and for this class I decided to only use a notebook and pen. No laptop. No voice recorder. I’ve gone completely retro!  Retro

Here’s Why I Think I Made a Great Call

1. I can only write down the really important concepts. Since I’m not typing, I don’t have the luxury of taking down lots of words. I can only pick the big ideas and what I think about them. This has given me a surprising amount of focus.

2. I get to doodle. I recall more of what people say if I can doodle while they’re talking. I’m not the only one, it seems. Jackie Andrade, a psychologist at the University of Plymouth in England, published a study in Applied Cognitive Psychology finding, among other things, that doodlers aren’t daydreaming. In other words, your mind doesn’t wander like it does when you just have to sit and listen and concentrate. 

3. I have archives. I’m a sucker for written pages. I love looking back through old handwritten lyrics and notes. There’s ALWAYS ‘character’ on the pages. Just from looking at the penmanship I can tell how I was feeling that day. I write big and sloppy, small and perfect, and every way in between depending on how I’m feeling. And while I don’t know that anyone would ever care to see the pages, I get a kick out them, and that’s enough for me.

What’s your take on pen-to-paper vs. laptop? Leave a comment below. I’m curious!

P.S. YES! Pencils are fine, too.(Like I didn’t know you would ask?!?!?!)

12 thoughts on “My Writing has Gone Retro

  1. I love pen-and-paper writing–just as I love to hold a real book as I’m reading. I guess the downside of p-a-p writing is that I’ve got notebooks and song ideas on scraps of paper everywhere. I have a hard time finding things when I’ve left them a while. I recently got a laptop so that I could store my songs/ideas in one place. I can write on the laptop, but I often
    find myself reaching for a nearby notebook and feeling a bit more true to myself there.

  2. I just got back from a writing retreat and say amen to retro. I took every notebook and scrap and printed page and just read through them asking The Lord what to focus on. The word was grace…and patiently sifting through, I found a sermon note and an old lyric that sparked a new hook that is probably my best hook yet…my co-writers were a bit irritated at my lack of focus until the hook was thrown out. We wrote it in less than 3hrs and I am super excited about it. 1) because it’s retro…nah…because God is still speaking to us and giving us the great opportunity to write songs that lift Him up.

  3. Chris, I definitely have to transfer everything to my computer once it’s down. I’m thinking about using Evernote to keep my songs more organized. Hmm…

    Brad, I can’t wait to hear it!!!!!

    And maybe we should all get t-shirts: The Pen & Paper Club?

    • Belinda and friends – I am a huge fan of Evernote because of the availability of your documents wherever you go and whatever device you use to get to them. There is much evidence for the pen and paper way but having a “safety”copy in the cloud is good, too! And don’t forget you can scan all of your hand-written lyrics into Evernote also.

      • Allen, I’ve signed up for the free version of Evernote, but I haven’t found a great tutorial that shows the depth that everyone raves about. Glad to hear that you’re a fan.

  4. Totally agree. I don’t have to stop and correct my spelling (have done it 3 times on this line alone). Also lines on paper seem to be the way they end up .. as far as syllables on the page. Also arrows here and there where I can move a line around. Make notes in the margin, see where I have been, all my ideas don’t get erased either. I do have to transfer it to the computer while I can still read it.

  5. LUV doodling. ^><^<<<^^.^<

    But other than that? I definitely write better lyrics on my laptop. Seems like the ideas and random word choices and dare-to-suck phrases and – yes – bunny trails just come out of my mind way too fast for the pencil. So if I can't get 'em all down fast enough by typing, I get frustrated and blocked. (Probably helps that I type fast. Legal secretary in a past life. Which doesn't fit with the songwriter persona at all.) Schizo? Perhaps!!!

  6. I like them both. I love the feel of stream of consciousness writing when I’m first getting the idea down on the paper. It’s nearly electric. When I transfer to the laptop, I can keep my forming lyrics up top and notate all of my “scribblings”. Sometimes I’ll have 5-6 pages of notes/thoughts below the lyric. It helps keep me focused. But in the end, I still crave that initial rush of pen to paper.

  7. Definitely prefer pen and paper for the initial rough copy. Ideas seem to flow quicker out of my head when writing as opposed to typing.

    Also, if I type first, I have a bad habit of always editing as I go instead of just spilling my ideas onto the paper. After the initial copy, I then move over to the laptop through the rest of the process.

  8. Great thought provoker! Definitely pen and paper/napkin/tissue/receipt/candy wrapper lol for sudden ideas and thoughts. Computer for writing more complete ideas. I think the computer works best for me because I type fast so it doesn’t interfere with the flow of ideas. But, I think I will switch it up to see if it changes something for me 🙂

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