It's been almost 3 weeks since switching from a Palm handheld to a custom Moleskine weekly planner, which I'm happy to report is going quite well. I'm enjoying having a thin, pocketable planner which can take a beating and never needs a charge.
But beyond my positive experience with paper planner, I've been considering the advantages I'm finding in making use of various analog tools.
For a little perspective, I've been incredibly busy at MakaluMedia, making good headway with my backlog of logo, icon and web design work. I'm finally seeing daylight. I enjoy being busy, especially doing such varied and challenging design projects. I think my latest work is elevating my craft to new levels, and I love it.
However, this state of busyness has made me keenly aware of the fleeting lifestyle I'm living. Jobs come in like waves at the seashore to be quoted and kicked off. Emails build up and must be dealt with constantly. Streams of communication flow through my Mac every day, with clients and colleagues. RSS feeds seem to grow beyond my ability to keep up, so that occasionally I "mark all as read" and move on.
How can I step back, even for a brief moment, and take time to think?
I've found that the analog tools I've adopted, help me step back from the digital edge. Whether it's sketching or writing — placing pen or pencil to paper provides the necessary thought space I need to process, explore, create and think — before I'm sucked back into the computer world.
Why is this? I think there are several factors to why analog tools work so well:
1. Using analog tools forces me to slow down and ponder ideas I might normally skip past while in a computer-accelerated state of mind. I have to process the words I'm planning to write, or consider the shape I want to convey on paper — before or during the writing or sketching. In writing especially, this minimal mental delay slows my mind down and allows me time to build words a little differently than on a keyboard.
2. The feel of pencil and pen on paper provides a different tactile experience than a mouse or keyboard, which helps break computer-mode. There is something supremely pleasurable about smooth graphite or flowing ink on good paper stock. For me, this tactile feeling is a positive part of the drawing process. I find my state of mind and tactile senses are different than when I'm on the computer in Illustrator, Fireworks or Photoshop than when I'm sketching in my Miquelrius with a soft pencil.
3. My creativity is free to roam on paper, which is critical in the design stage. I feel free to explore crazy ideas, less concerned about how to pull them off technically and more interested in getting into a flow and iterating them into to a great idea. This freedom allows me to try many different ideas quickly, and lends itself toward a flow of ideas, rather than getting over-focused on details too quickly.
But to be clear — I am not anti-technology! I use computers daily to manage and perform my design work and appreciate the power and control they offer. I amazed at what can be done with a Mac, and will continue to use one for producing great solutions for clients.
Rather than being anti-technology, I'm challenging computer users to consider analog tools. I'm suggesting we should use the tools (analog or digital) that help our work become the best it can be. That might mean an analog and not digital tool.
I challenge you to explore analog tools as you might already explore digital ones. See how an analog approach might change your perspective, your thinking process, your creativity, your freedom.
Maybe that analog tool will allow you to breathe, ponder, flow and enjoy the creative process even more.