Pencil vs. Keyboard

Most of the time, if I have my laptop or iPad sitting on a table somewhere, my trusty Moleskine and a good mechanical pencil are sitting nearby. It’s not uncommon for me to have the electronic device pushed off to the side in favor of the pencil, nor is it unusual for me to have the Moleskine in my pocket while I travel, or sitting close at hand (often right beneath my smart phone) on a bar or restaurant table.

People will often ask me “What’s with the notebook? Why not just type the same thing in your laptop?”

Because of the feel, I’ll tell them.

Artist Patrick Hoover and I talked about the pencil versus the keyboard recently, and here’s how he explained it:

“It’s very tactile and triggers something creative in the brain. I can’t write in a notebook and not end up doodling all over it. It’s physical and dirty and imperfect, and by it’s nature chaotic in a sense. That’s what creating is all about. The computer is just too hard, sterile, and inflexible. It’s great for polishing up something, but I think the best creations come from old school pencil and paper.”

That about sums it up. The ideas just flow faster through a pencil. I love the feel of scribbling on paper, and sometimes I’ll doodle or draw balloons and connecting lines, underline for emphasis (or scratch out to emphasize how hard something sucks), and capture stream-of-consciousness thoughts that may or may not amount to anything.



Why not dump these notes into Evernote? Because Evernote’s for storage and retrieval, not generation. I can’t afford to be deciphering my scribbled handwriting, flipping through the notebook for the right page, or worse, not have the notebook available when I’m trying to write. I also have timelines and character notes for The Pack in Evernote, but there are several drafts of the same in the Moleskine. It’s like Evernote gets the final draft notes, if that makes any sense.

Why not dump them into a story document? Same reason, really. I sit down and start writing when I have an idea of what I want to say. Sure, there’s still a lot of creativity going into the writing process at the keyboard, but that’s more choosing words and stringing together narrative and dialog than it is conjuring the actual scenes and plot. I don’t always work from full outlines, but thinking back, I can hardly think of a time I didn’t at least work off of notes, even for short stories.

Brainstorming and creating just comes easier for me with a pencil. I tinkered with mind map software, but it doesn’t click with me, either. A pencil and the Moleskine — or pretty much any blank piece of paper or yes, a cocktail napkin — works much, much better.

I may be content to replace books with electronic editions, but I’m not sure I’d ever give up my pencil and paper.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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