Photo Credit Essay 911

Communications | Apr 19, 2010 | 3 Comments

[paper, scissors, latte]

[really old-school writing methods still work]

While researching term papers in college, I copied countless bits of information from books onto index cards. Before I sat down to write, I shuffled and reshuffled the notes like playing cards until I found the right order. Then I strung the thoughts together on my grandmother’s 1954 Smith Corona typewriter.

Yes, I am dating myself, but that typewriter was already “vintage” by the time I got to college.

I say I would never go back to those days and yet, I almost did recently while preparing a presentation on social media. I had amassed a huge amount of data and interesting quotes—and I was feeling overwhelmed.

As I sat wondering where to start, a sudden impulse took hold. I grabbed the folder of ideas I’d printed out, along with a couple of sharp pencils and a pair of scissors, and set out for one of my favorite local coffee houses, Café Trieste.

Coffee is a huge part of the writing process for me, so that was no surprise. But the impulse to leave my laptop at home did make me wonder. I almost never write anything on paper any more, other than notes. I seem to “think” with my fingers, so I wasn’t even sure I could organize written material without a keyboard.

However, it turned out to be a good idea. While holding the paper and scissors, cutting and separating the scraps into ideas to use and ideas to lose, I felt so much more focused. I sipped the latte while sifting and sorting, until the piles finally began to make sense. One more latte’s worth of reshuffling and trimming, and I was ready for PowerPoint.

When I got back to the laptop, the piles turned into logical sections of the presentation and the writing just flowed. Maybe it was because I took the opportunity to unplug and think everything through first.

Just curious: what’s your creative process? Does it help to unplug sometimes?

Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


I still write my notes on yellow pads and am a big advocate of getting off the computer now and then and writing first drafts on a pad. I think there is research that shows that writing with a pen triggers different activity in the brain than writing with two hands on a keyboard. I know that writing with a pen and paper helps me commit an idea to memory; and I’m not sure that happens as much when I type something in the computer (maybe I rely on the search feature on the computer to help me access that info so I don’t have to remember it). Writing with a pen may allow you to be more creative as you don’t have the chatter between the two sides of your brain constantly trying to strike a balance. Now I’m motivated to go research the topic!

Good post.




Lisa, what great perspective. Please let me know if you do that research. You could write about it in a blog, and if you do, I’ll link to it. Thanks!


Claire Wagner


As a designer, I’ve always done my chicken scratch sketching while coming up with ideas. In the last several years, I’ve done the sketching electronically. Though when I’m blocked or need to block out all technology, I go back to my sketch pad. Sometimes the old fashioned way gets the creative juices flowing better. Now you have me thinking I need to do an experiment to see if I should be sketching traditionally more than electronically, hmmm.




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