This morning I wrote, by hand, first thing upon awakening. I stirred a bit before my alarm went off at 5 then snoozed myself to a gradual awakening at 5:30. I’d left my journal and pen on the night stand last night, so all that was left was to roll over and write once I was sufficiently awake. Okay, that’s not entirely true: I got up and put on some of yesterday’s cast-off clothing for warmth, and I walked across the room (carefully, not to disturb the dog) to get my lap desk. But apart from that minimal bit of activity, I wrote first thing, without leaving my bedroom much less turning on the computer to check email or anything else.
Yes, I’m trying to return to a more elemental existence, something more in touch with ink, pen, and paper. In addition to trying to write more frequently “by hand” in my journal, I’m slowly transferring my online calendar back to a pen and paper Day-Timer, my PDA having sat on my desk as a paperweight for months. Keeping an electronic calendar that can be quickly and easily updated from one’s online version is hugely efficient: you always have an online backup should something happen to your PDA, and recurring events (like each week’s scheduled classes) can be created with the tap of a stylus. But there’s something about the scratch of pen on paper that is so much more grounded (and grounding) than anything I ever felt when I was a mad stylus-tapper. I kept my schedule, address book, and everything else I “had” to know in a paper organizer for years before reluctantly switching to a PDA, and it worked. Non-digital calendars have worked for ages and eons; come to think of it, non-digital calendars have worked quite effectively since the legendary “dawn of time.”
There’s something conscious and willful in my regression to paper, this recent return to more frequent journaling and this switch back to a paper calendar after years with a digital one. At the height of my PDA days, I had to be efficient, for I was juggling an insane teaching schedule where I taught twice a normal full-time teaching load at several different colleges topped with the demands of my dissertation-writing. At the height of my PDA days, I wrote huge chunks of my dissertation on my PDA, tapping out words on a folding, detachable keyboard in every spare second. Every spot of time in my day was spoken for and then some; I carried my schedule- and diss-laden PDA everywhere in order to maximize every last sliver of time. For me, having a PDA quickly moved from time-saver to time-enslaver, every last iota of efficiency being wrung from my hours and days.
These days, I want to live life more slowly; these days, I don’t want to rush. Writing down my appointments by hand is slow and inefficient, but I’m convinced (finally) that living slowly is a good if not strictly efficient use of time. It isn’t strictly efficient to handwrite a first draft and then re-type those same words…yet that’s exactly what I did throughout most of my undergraduate years. Most of life’s joys are, when you think of it, hugely inefficient and downright wasteful. Why stop to meditate when you could be doing something productive? Why bother spending time with friends and family when you could be working, and why prepare a home-cooked meal when you could microwave a pre-prepared one?
Just as slow food always tastes better than fast, there’s a certain intangible goodness about the mindful and methodical. Home-cooked food tastes better because of the attention and craft in its preparation: there’s care in the cookery. These days, I want to live well more than efficiently: I want my words and my hours to be human and alive, in touch with paper rather than plastic. These days I want to spend time wisely, slowly, and with care, my mind and heart so reverent that they can heed the soft sound of a pen’s scratch, gentle as a winter-ripened bud.
- If you too yearn for a return to the “analog” world of ink, pen, and paper, check out Journalismo, the virtual brainchild of Mike Rohde and Armand Frasco. Just because your computer is “wired” doesn’t mean you have to be: the ultimate in wireless technology is totally UNwired, the mantra of the moment being Turn Off, Tune Out, Unplug.