Writing the Old Fashioned Way….With Pen and Paper

We’re ending the week with this great piece from Robynn! After you’ve read it, you may be compelled to pick up a quill and a scroll!

writing, blogging, pen, paperOur son Connor was recently inducted into the international honorary society, Quill and Scroll. The society exists to promote scholastic journalistic excellence among high school journalists. It was started in April 1926 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.

I love it that Connor gets to be a part of such a long-standing community of writers committed to good writing but it amuses me to think that it’s called the Quill and Scroll. Connor and most of his cohorts can hardly manage a pen and paper let alone a quill and a scroll.

Last week I was on my way home from Albuquerque and my flight was delayed. Here’s a little something that I penned in my journal:

It’s hard to write anymore with pen and paper. How did I become one of these writers that prefers the computer, the keyboard, the monitor? How did that happen?

I was always a pen and paper girl!

And now here I am stripped of laptop sitting waiting for a delayed plane, inspired to write and yet without my tools—like a knitter without needles or a mechanic without a wrench.

I criticize my own children for being paralyzed without their technology. They’ve developed an insane dependency on their screens. They constantly poke, swipe, tap on screens. They have phones. There’s Facebook and Pinterest and instagram. Games on the laptop. Games on the phone. Games on the Xbox.  Games on the iPod. Even the books they read are imbedded into their technology.

When we lived in India I was “sheltered” from modern devices. We did have a small box television and a VHS video player and eventually even a DVD player. Lowell took our laptop back and forth to his office. When it was at home the kids, considerably smaller then it’s true, had games they played on it…mostly reading games or math puzzles. Lowell had Riven and Mist which provided him some entertainment.

Life was busier there. The children were younger. I was kept occupied meeting their needs and really just living. When I was on the computer it was for the occasional administrative detail. I wrote letters on it, and kept up with our business accounts. I rarely did email–we didn’t have internet in our home in those days.

I remember when new people would arrive in our remote city how shocked they were at the lack of technology we had access to. It frustrated them. They were used to google searching everything. Weather.com had always helped them know how to dress. Allrecipes.com told them what to eat and how to cook it. Google told them where to find things and how to locate them.

But now? How were they to get along? Where could find plastic buckets? And how did they get there? In some ways we became their access to information. We were their search engine. We showed them how to dress, what to wear, how to cook, what to eat. We also encouraged them to engage their neighbours and community for what they needed. Aunties next door knew where to get buckets of every size and colour.

It was hard for me not to roll my eyes at the paralysis these new friends experienced without their technology.

That was before we moved back into the land of instant information! The shock of sudden access was almost as crippling. Almost every question I had was deferred to the internet.

Where do I find school enrollment information? Oh, have you checked the USD 383 website?

Where can I buy a whatchamacallit? You could try online.

How do I get a library card? Go online. Check the website.

How do I cook a turkey? Oh it’s so easy….just look online!

It was astounding. Bank online. Pay bills online. Listen to the radio online. Get news online. Get church newsletters in my inbox. Sign up online. Invitations sent via email. RSVP online.

At first it felt so disconnected and crazy to me. But how quickly I became that same person. I depend on the internet in ways I never did before. I’m used to it. I still have a flash of surprise when someone suggests getting information from there but it’s an “oh yes…I should have thought of that” kind of surprise not a shocking exasperation anymore.  I find recipes there and advice. The girls spilt dark purple nail polish on our light coloured carpet. No need to worry. The internet says apply rubbing alcohol and hairspray and rub like crazy. They did and it worked!! Thanks to the internet my carpet is restored and my anger diffused! I check the weather in far off places before I travel. I book tickets. I make reservations. I check on friends.

Now here I am. I wait for my flight and I’d like to write but I don’t have my computer. I feel the paralysis take hold. Do I even know how to write anymore? Can I still form the letters? Can sentences play out in my brain without a screen to dance on?

I pick up my pen determined. I can do this—

But before I start I better remove the laptop from my own eye before picking out the Xbox from Connor’s eye, or the Kobo and iPod touch from my daughters eyes!

17 thoughts on “Writing the Old Fashioned Way….With Pen and Paper

  1. Hi Robynn,

    Nice article. I prefer logging new ideas and taking notes with pen and paper. But traditional paper notebooks aren’t flexible enough to keep notes organized. I use pen and paper more now that I’ve found the right sized, customized notebook (http://www.bitesizebschool.com/blog/how-to-save-all-those-great-product-ideas-no-matter-where-you-go/).

    It’s difficult to escape the keyboard but if you aren’t doing research requiring the Internet, pen and paper offers many advantages. You can remain focused, thoughts flow easier and it is more intimate (exercising motor skills).


  2. Once upon a time when we used a quill and scroll (just kidding but comparatively speaking, almost because it was 1979 or ’80 and pre-personal computers) I, too, was inducted into that honorary society. I still have the little charm I was given on the occasion. Our tools have changed but the important things is that we keep writing! Congratulations to Connor!


  3. Hi Robynn! Nice to meet you! I am a writer but I agree technology enables us. I am a victim of technology too, but for the most part I am sometimes technologically challenged. Because it can be difficult for me to keep up with the technology, I am able to do some traditional writing. I keep both a journal and hand journal. I also keep a calender/schedule via a journal format. I take notes for my classes also within a regular notebook. It can be tempting to use technology, but if you don’t know some of it, and are struggling to use it.. it might help. My advise… don’t learn it and you’ll be fine :_


  4. When I used to write poetry I did it in a book or scraps or paper. I used to carry a little pad and pen in my bag at all times. I am getting more and more dependent on the keyboard now. Sometimes I type a thought out on the notepad of my phone.
    My daughters still write using pen and paper. My younger one has been making cards for us from the time she learnt to write and draw and still does it.
    They send handwritten postcards to friends. I like that. I like the fact that they have not allowed technology to take them over completely. We all love stationary even more than we love technology. I am ashamed to say that now all the notebooks I so greedily buy stay empty, Thankfully the same doesn’t happen with the girls. They also like to buy actual books to read. I like living in the past where books and paper and pens are concerned. Loved reading this.


    1. My youngest would get along with your youngest! She also loves to write. She’s started hundreds of little stories in hundreds of little notebooks! It pleases me to see her writing with a pencil in a ratty little notebook!
      I find myself still buying journals and composition books and diaries out of along a sort of longing I think… We are women caught between generations! Thanks for your comments.


  5. I enjoy pen and ink, but my hands are betraying me lately. It takes them a while to get warmed up and functioning in the morning.Sometimes even navigating the mouse can be a bit much. Also I touch type extremely fast. I can almost keep up with my thoughts as they happen.


  6. My journal has a green cover, so I write inside with a green pen… so sensual using that pen, and the images pour out onto the page… also not so easy to alter them, because scratching out spoils the visual effect, so let them flow almost by themselves and write around the mistake until all corrects itself… technology be damned… later drafts can be entered into the computer and laboriously edited, but that initial rush of green organic inspiration has a pure life of its own…


    1. My morning soul-thoughts are always recorded in a funny little composition book with a favourite pen…. My heart doesn’t dictate well onto a keyboard… that’s reserved for my other writing. The soul stuff comes out on paper, hidden in a journal, scratched out with a pen… It’s the “initial rush of green organic inspiration” you write of….!


  7. Still love to receive letters from home which are written with ink pen. Amidst technology this form of writing has become an art. When receiving such letters, the ones written with ink pen, I feel special because I know someone loves me deeply in order to take the time to write such valuable letters. Petra


    1. I wish I could hand write you a response Petra! Thanks for sharing your nostalgia with us. It’s been a long time since I received such a letter…


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