A journal and Lamy Safari fountain pen on a dark stained wood table

The following was transcribed from the pictured journal entry. I used Google Lens and a LOT of editing.

It has been easy to not make time to write recently. “Busyness” is the main culprit, but I’ve also been spending time with its less boisterous sibling, distraction. And so here I find myself, back at the roots of my writing practice. The journal. I’ve missed the empty page. The empty screen is nice too, in my writing software of choice, but I can’t help feeling the weight of the myriad windows/apps/messages vying for my attention. So I’ve returned to my empty page. It welcomes my attention and thought, but does not compete for them. It is an escape in plain sight.

The past couple weeks have been especially tricky with a sick daughter who doesn’t want to sleep, a busy and understaffed season at work, and all sorts of house projects begging to be completed. All these things are important to give my time to, but I miss having time alone to work through my thoughts. And there is something unique to working through thoughts with pen and paper. It would be interesting to see how a particular thought path might develop differently if done digitally instead of analog. Digital thoughts can be discarded and reshaped much more easily. Analog thoughts are methodical and more planned out. Each word, each sentence, gets much more thought. There is no turning back.

It’s so fun to see where thoughts lead me. I thought this would be an entry about busyness and distraction, but my mind seems more stuck on the difference between digital and analog mediums for thought exploration. Having a medium to capture your thoughts is useful, but how does the medium shape your thoughts? Is it better to be able to edit and rearrange your thoughts easily, or is it better, to follow a slow, linear progression? Or is it just different? If I had written this digitally, I might have edited the first paragraph to have a smoother segue, but I would have lost the original idea that led me to where I am now. Analog forces a full historical record. It takes a longer time to adjust course or backtrack, but you won’t lose where you started. How many beautiful, half-baked thoughts have been lost in the editing phase of digital writing? Yet on the other side of the coin, dead branches should be pruned so that the healthy ones can grow stronger.

It would be nice to have the benefits of both analog and digital. I need someone to build a small microwave-style device that scans a notebook in its entirety, and then some sort of local, air-gapped Al separates and tags the content appropriately, moving it to my note app of choice. A dreamer has to dream. The major downfall of analog is how hard it is to re-surface at a later time. There are indexing and categorization systems that help with this, but they don’t come close to what I can do digitally.

The experience of writing something new is so nice in analog though. Flip to an empty page, grab your writing utensil, and get going. I get the physical feedback of the pen, the sound of each stroke on the page, and my writing style is distinctly “mine”. I contrast that with my phone, where I feel obligated to read each notification before I get started writing. That is, if I even make it there without getting lost chasing a squirrel. It’s not as good with a laptop either. I have to pull it out, boot it up, find my app, and make my way to a blank space for writing. It’s not too much longer, but it feels so much further away than pen and paper.

This sounds a bit like digital-bashing, but I prefer it in many cases. I’ve just been spending too much time there recently, and not enough time with my pen and paper. Here’s to more time with my ad-free journal.