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Dark Puss

I write in notebooks. I also use desktop and laptop computers for writing. In both cases what I am doing is a craft; I'm using different tools at different times. I do not subscribe to the thesis of Lee Rourke and I do not think he "explains why the pen is mightier than the keyboard" anymore than the baroque flute is somehow "mightier" than the modern just beacuse it has one rather than dozens of keys. He has a strong preference for one craft tool and he explains clearly why he has that preference but I don't see a clear and justified universality in his argument.


I find the physical connection with the page - the feel of the pen or pencil and its 'engagement' with the paper - has a quality of experience to it that typing lacks. I use both, but find the very act of making marks on paper more expressive, and perhaps thus more inducive to creativity, than using a keyboard. I daresay this won't be true of everyone, but as a way of easing oneself into a state of creative 'flow', I've found the pen is mightier. I think Jon McGregor's point (in that article) is also well-made and one which supports the argument - the notebook, the piece of paper, shows the 'workings', the process, the thinking and re-thinking, the links and sketchy ideas, much of which is lost due to the ease of deletion on a computer.
I don't quite understand your flute analogy, that is, I don't think that it is sophistication, or lack of it, per se, that is the issue here.

Dark Puss

In what way do we not show the workings when we use a computer? I have lots of drafts, I have documents with multiple revisions and revision of revisions all clearly shown. You can follow my (lack of) thought processes as easily as in my notebooks, probably more easily. I know many people find the physical connection an advtange over the computer, though they have particular touch-and-feel aspects too, but the idea that one is a craft and the other isn't I strongly disagree with. Maybe my flute analogy isn't a good one but I do feel that there is an aspect of electronic = bad, quill pen and hand-made paper = good creeping in to some of the argument. May be I'm just too blinkered to understand it all. I'm not in any way arguing against pen and paper; each worker to her own preferred tool surely, but I don't buy the generality aspect of his argument either.


Re. the drafts, if I am writing an article, say, I will redraft as I go so that only the current or finished version is saved. Had I written the piece in longhand first, in a notebook, all amendments and deletions would have been visible in the one document.
I wouldn't say that one method was a craft and the other was not, or that electronic was bad and quill pen good - far from it - but I find it interesting that computer development has taken the path of tablets, etc. on which you can write with a stylus!

Dark Puss

But if, like I do, you used the revisions feature then all the changes would also be visible in your computer document. You use the tool differently from the way I do; that's fine, but it doesn't support the argument! When I write on paper (not in a notebook) I have the opportunity, often taken, of throwing away the drafts so that once again all you see is the final version. I'm afraid you haven't convinced me that McGregor's statement Writing on the screen is far more ephemeral – a sentence deleted can't be reconsidered is anything other than plain wrong!


Thank you for the link to the radio programme, I enjoyed it and laughed when it came to writing in W.H. Smith notebooks! Sometimes if I want to remember what happened in a certain year, if I recall the cover of the notebook - 1979 bright orange notebook from WHS - things come flooding back!


Yes, those visual cues are strong ones.

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