Pen to Paper

As much as I love computers for all they have given me — Excel, Oregon Trail, cats on the internetz — there’s something about handwriting I’ll never get over. It’s all so very tactile: your hand brushing against paper; the smell of lead; the ink spots that cover the sides of my index finger after a writing session.


While it’s a lot slower than writing on the computer, most of my writing starts out like this — handwritten in a small purse-sized notebook. There are two reasons for this. One: I don’t own a laptop! Pen and paper is cheap and portable and no matter where I am I can steal fifteen, thirty minutes whenever I can to write.

One of my favorite notebooks: dot-grid from RAD AND HUNGRY.

Two: this may sound odd, but my writing is better when it starts in handwritten form. I really got on the handwriting bandwagon after reading Lynda Barry’s What It Is. (Let me stop right now and say: if you are a creative individual and haven’t read this book, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING GO NOW WHERE IS YOUR CREDIT CARD??) Barry is a big proponent of handwriting. She says it opens up a different part of the brain, something we’re not able to access by sitting stationary at a computer ::

There is a state of mind which is not accessible by thinking. It seems to require a participation with something.

And I dunno. I’ve always argued that I’m a great candidate for the placebo effect, but there’s something about handwriting that just works. The story progresses to places I didn’t imagine — characters say things I didn’t expect. My own stories surprise me in ways they never do when I’m working solely on the computer.

The downside of handwriting: not being able to figure out my notes. STILL not sure what this is supposed to mean...
The downside of handwriting: not being able to figure out my notes. STILL not sure what this is supposed to mean…

I try to get other things into my notebooks, too. Drawings (which I do poorly). Typography (OH SO AMATEUR). I’m not good at these things but I’d like to get better. One notebook at a time.

This weekend’s plan: map out the future backyard on grid paper. Draw out the lines. See where it takes me.

Unleash the Introverts!

I’m not sure when, but at some point in my life I became mildly obsessed with the Myers-Briggs personality test. I took an oh-so-official free online test (ISTJ, represent!) and then wanted to how everyone else fit into those 16 little types. It seemed to give organization to things, a reason for why people behaved in certain ways.

Mostly I was interested in introversion vs. extraversion. I remember first learning about introverts and thinking these are my people. So when a book came along that indulged my fascination, I had to pick it up. I’m not normally big on nonfiction — I want STORY, dammit! — but Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was a good one. Although my friends and family probably weren’t thrilled that I was reading it, seeing as I made them all take the Myers-Briggs test.


This “definition” of introversion rang true ::

Introverts …. may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas …. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.

Yup, that’s me. All hail introverts!

The book talks a lot about creativity and innovation (particularly as it applies to the workplace). This probably doesn’t surprise many of you, but introverts — the social weirdos — are often deemed more creative than their extrovert counterparts. The reason?

But there’s a less obvious yet surprisingly powerful explanation for introverts’ creative advantage — an explanation that everyone can learn from: introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.

This does seem an argument for the closed-door policy — or maybe just having an actual physical door you can shut in the world’s face. Even if being out and about excites you, you need to hole up to actually get down to the business of being creative.

(Of course, I can think of examples where the “creative as introvert” theory doesn’t really hold true…Pablo Picasso was called a “vampire” by friends because he sucked the energy out of people.)

As I read the book and kept quoting sections to Byron, he grew dismayed. “I feel like this book may just be enforcing some of your tendencies,” he said. By which, of course, he  meant my tendency to avoid large crowds and crave time at home and what is this new thing you’re trying to make me do??

But the book doesn’t cast extroverts and introverts as the heroes and villains in The Battle for Universe Dominance. There needs to be a balancing act; extroverts and introverts can learn a lot from each other. Introverts don’t get a hall pass for checking out of society. Cain argues that when introverts are passionate about a project, they can push themselves in social situations and behave… well, like extroverts. And that doing so — getting out of the comfort zone — can even be good for them.

Oh, sorry — good for us. While it’s already exhausting me, I guess my Year of Yes is a good  thing after all.

Where do you see yourself on the scale of extraversion and introversion? Do you think it’s true that creative types tend to be introverts? And most importantly — does this book give me free rein to stay home all day in my sweatpants? (I think I sadly know the answer to that.)