Writing any type of content (a novel, academic essay, blog post, etc) requires a great deal of concentration and discipline. In fact, when you’re writing, the slightest distraction or inconvenience can adversely affect your productivity and workflow.
So it’s no wonder that the writing medium you use is very important, especially when you consider that while each medium helps you eliminate certain distractions, each medium also has its own distractions and drawbacks.
Thanks to the advancement of technology, many writers prefer to write with the computer. Others, however, prefer to do things the old-fashioned way — they prefer to first write with a pen and paper, and then transfer their work to the computer.
Both writing media, in their own way, are effective. But you’d be wise to integrate the one that works better for you into your personal workflow. Have in mind that the medium which is more productive for another writer may not work the same way for you. And you don’t want to make the mistake of adopting a writing medium simply because it’s what works for the majority.
How then do you know which writing medium is the better option for you?
Well, to begin with, let’s take a look at some of the perks and pitfalls of both writing media.
1. It has fewer hitches.
When you’re writing with a pen and paper, you don’t have to worry about a page or an app taking too long to load — and you also don’t have to worry about your system crashing. The writing process usually begins the moment you place the nib of your pen onto a blank sheet of paper. And since writing with the pen is a skill that you learnt at an early age, this writing medium usually feels more natural than the other one.
2. It has fewer distractions.
Writing with a pen and paper has relatively minimal distractions compared to writing digitally. Unlike digital writing, writing on paper discourages multitasking, and thus ensures that you have a seamless workflow and a pristine, completed (or nearly completed) article on your desk by the end of the day.
3. It allows you the opportunity to put down your thoughts quickly and creatively.
Have you ever experienced a sudden rush of ideas — something similar to a vicious case of information overload — and you feared that if you don’t put down these ideas immediately, your brain might implode from processing all that information? And that you might forget all of those interesting ideas almost as quickly as you got them?
If you’ve ever been in such situation, then you’d know just how difficult it is for your hand to keep up with your fleeting thoughts in the middle of an idea rush. This is why I always carry a pen and a notepad with me wherever I go. In situations like this, I find putting down my ideas in my notepad in form of shorthand, charts and diagrams so much faster, easier and more convenient than writing digitally in plain text.
Typing in shorthand can be quite the challenge, especially when your computer’s auto-correct feature keeps “correcting” your abbreviations every now and again.
4. Rewriting is so much easier when you first write on paper.
Editing is an integral part of the writing process, and one highly effective way to edit your content is to rewrite it. Although the conventional way to edit is to read the content thoroughly from beginning to end while correcting any mistakes that you find on the go. The fault in this conventional style is that of all the areas of writing that can be improved, this style focuses more on grammar than other areas.
When you’re rewriting your content, you’re simply writing it all over again. But you’re not rewriting it word-for-word — rather, you’re modifying it; you’re making tiny adjustments to its sentence structure, tone, pacing, word choice, grammar and the like. (If you figured this one out ahead of time, go ahead and pat yourself on the back.)
The rewriting process has so many benefits that can’t be contained in this article. And it is most effective when you first write on paper, and then type all over with the computer.
1. You can easily lose your work.
The fact that paper can easily get damaged or lost makes it one of the least secure places to store your content. Imagine spending so much time drafting a blog post in your blog journal, only to forget that journal in a cab on your way back home from work. Can you imagine how frustrating that is?
Unfortunately, unlike most writing apps, blog journals don’t have a backup feature that lets you regain your content after losing it. Sucks, doesn’t it?
2. It’s difficult to write under poor lighting conditions.
If humans were nocturnal beings, like owls, bats, and… werewolves, then perhaps we would be able write on paper in complete darkness or under poor lighting conditions with little difficulty — that is, after overcoming the challenge of learning to properly hold the pen with our wings and claws. But as we aren’t nocturnal beings, we need a bright source of light to see whatever we’re writing on before we can even think of writing anything.
This could be a major problem for you if you’re a traditional writer who wants to write, but it’s nighttime — and even worse, there’s no power supply or a bright source of light. When this happens, there’s basically nothing you can do to change the situation apart from finding a source of light or watching your inspiration dwindle away to nothing while you patiently wait for the power to come back on.
3. It can be exhausting.
The rewriting process has a lot of benefits, but it can often be a daunting task, especially when you’re writing a lengthy piece — like this blog post you’re reading that contains 2,000-plus words. This is why most writers and bloggers prefer to write digitally and edit conventionally. Many don’t find the idea of writing a lengthy article on paper and then typing it all over again very appealing.
1. It saves you time and energy.
Perhaps the most important benefit of digital writing is that it delivers content faster than would be the case if you were writing traditionally. This is largely because it skips the rewriting process which, as you know, can be exhausting and time consuming.
If you’re writing a lengthy piece within the constraints of a deadline, you may find it easier to write digitally and edit conventionally since it saves you a lot of time and the stress of typing your content all over again.
2. It has quick and easy access to the dictionary.
The dictionary is every writer’s most trusted companion. It’s the one friend you know you can always count on anytime you’re having trouble remembering the meaning, usage, spelling, synonym or antonym of a word or phrase.
Like many writers, I use the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary because it’s very detailed — so much more than the dictionary apps I have installed on my phone. But I’m forced to rely entirely on these dictionary apps whenever I’m writing anywhere outside my house, reason being that my preferred dictionary isn’t exactly portable.
Digital dictionaries aren’t as bad as I make them seem, though. They have their perks: For instance, you’re less likely to get sidetracked while looking for the meaning of a word in a digital dictionary. And it takes less time and effort to search for the meaning of a word. While this might not seem like much, it’s an advantage nonetheless.
3. You can easily share your content with others.
Every writing app has share buttons that allow you to share your work with other people via social media, email, instant messaging and the like. Some others, like Google Keep and Evernote, give you the option to assign collaborator roles to anyone of your choice.
I find this helpful whenever I’m having a writer’s block while writing a story, and I need my friends to help me come up with ideas. If I wrote my stories in a journal instead of a writing app, and I needed the help or services of someone who lives very far away, I would first have to go through the stress of typing the entire story before I can send it to the person. For this reason, the digital medium is your best bet if you know you’re going to be sharing your work with others.
4. It has a backup and restore feature.
The last thing a writer wants is to lose his content after putting so much effort into creating and perfecting it. When that happens, it can be a devastating and demoralising experience for the writer. Unlike the traditional writing medium, the digital medium is tremendously effective at protecting your content and guaranteeing that it can be recovered if you ever lose it.
This is because nearly every writing app today has a backup and restore feature that allows you to save a copy of your original work to the internal memory of your device, an external storage device, or an online storage platform, like Google Drive, for example. You might want to keep this in mind the next time you decide to write your manuscript in a book without having a digital copy.
1. It is VERY distracting.
From social media notifications to Candy Crush Saga, the digital writing medium has a universe of distractions so enticing, the mere thought of them makes you want to lie to yourself that you’ve done enough writing for one day.
It’s usually when you’re writing digitally that you’d stumble upon your eBook Reader and remember that you’re yet to finish that novel you started reading weeks ago — or that you still haven’t checked out that video that’s been trending on Twitter for a while now.
Many of us would want to procrastinate and yield to these tempting distractions, especially if we’re having a writer’s block or just feeling lazy. But if we’re going to call ourselves writers, we need to be disciplined enough to resist these temptations, no matter how enticing they may be. If you feel you don’t have what it takes to resist them, well, then you’d best stick with the traditional writing medium as it has fewer distractions.
2. It lacks the personal touch.
Many writers claim that writing digitally robs your content of its personal touch and originality. I couldn’t agree more. Every writer has a unique writing voice that manifests itself naturally in their writing. But this only happens when they’re writing with a medium that doesn’t try to silence that voice every now and then.
It’s so easy to lose your writing voice and sound (or write) differently when you’re writing digitally, thanks to your keyboard’s prediction feature always telling you what to write. This isn’t always a bad thing, though. It’s nice to write differently once in a while and note how your readers respond to the change — if they even notice the change, that is.
Nonetheless, your writing will always be better when you sound like yourself rather than someone else. And while it’s difficult to be consistent with your writing voice when you’re writing digitally, it’s not impossible. It takes practice to master the art — lots and lots of practice.
3. It isn’t healthy.
Staring at the computer screen for hours is bad for your eyes, even if you observe the 20/20/20 rule. This rule states that you should take a twenty-second break to stare at an object 20 metres away once every twenty minutes when you’re writing digitally — this helps the muscles in your eyes to relax after being tense for so long.
When you work behind the computer screen for several hours, inevitably, you would suffer from a headache, dizzy spells or, in the worst-case scenario, you would drop with fatigue. The headache becomes twice as painful when you have an eye defect that makes it difficult for you to see clearly — story of my life.
I started blogging using the traditional writing medium, and it worked perfectly for me. Later on when I wanted to explore, I tried out the digital medium and, even though it got the job done, I still preferred writing traditionally to writing digitally.
Today, I combine both mediums, regardless of the length of the article I’m writing. My writing process starts with me writing a very detailed outline and first draft for my article with the pen and paper. When I’m done writing, I rewrite the article with my phone.
Writing tradigitally (yes, it’s a made-up word) is what works for me. And if you’ve been struggling to decide which style would work for you, I hope that this article has helped you with that.
Which writing medium do you use? Why?
Please feel free to add any advantage or disadvantage I may have forgotten to add to this list.