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Blogging Without a Computer

This guest post is by Janek Makulec of paylane.

Blogging is actually a set of activities, but writing is always fundamental. Promoting your blog or presenting an outstanding layout is one thing, but you always have to offer good content first. Otherwise, the best you can achieve is being “the master of the form.”

What’s wrong with a computer?

Nothing, of course. People are the problem here, computers are just tools. It’s our psychology, the human nature.

So what should we use, if not a computer? There’s no good general answer. It depends on what you prefer. My choices are: pens and pencils, paper, a typewriter, and brains.

Whoa! Is it 1940 or something? Where do you even get a typewriter from?

Okay, such reaction is surely understandable, but let me explain how I find such “oldschool writing methods” more effective and easier to use.

Improving your style

There’s a well-known story about F. Nietzsche. It’s said that when he got himself a new typewriter and learned to use it, his writing style changed. It became more concise.

Of course typewriters or pens (like computers, text editors, etc.) are just tools, but it’s not like they’re not altering our writing style. When you can add, delete, or copy and paste every sentence or paragraph with pretty much no effort whatsoever, you stop concentrating. You lose your self-discipline.

Having the comfort of going back any time, repairing something, and keeping such corrections untraceable makes your mind more likely to lose focus. Less concentration means less creativity, and worse writing. And you’re done, thank you very much—there’s the door.

Furthermore, it’s more likely you’re going to write longer pieces, which are usually … well, boring. People would rather scan web articles than read them—a long text might scare them away. Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” He was talking about the very same thing. Writing short pieces is more difficult, but the effects are better. You have to tell the same thing in fewer words, but this way you’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Of course, it’s just a psychological trick. We somehow feel more responsible for what we write directly on paper—there’s physical evidence of what we’ve written. But if it works, why not use such a fact?

Getting rid of distractions

A computer is the greatest digital distraction center, especially when connected to the Internet (which is every computer nowadays). And I’m sure that’s obvious.

Of course you can turn off all notifications, and even disconnect, but be honest (not to me—to yourself): will you really be able not to think about checking your email or Twitter until you finish your work? You’re always one click away from doing this. Why keep being tempted or get distracted and waste time?

There’s no minesweeper or Facebook on a piece of paper! Turn off your computer and just write. Do you even remember what your handwriting looks like? I mean apart from your signature on the credit card!

The worst thing that may happen to you here is that you either have a pen that shows a lady getting undressed when it’s turned upside down, or you start drawing silly stuff. If you do, get a typewriter—there’s no drawing there. And it requires you to concentrate more on the writing itself, which is another advantage.

Of course there are fullscreen text editors that turn off all notifications and are supposed to keep you concentrated on your writing. There are even ones that simulate a typewriter. If this works for you, great! You’re one of the lucky ones. But if you have to use your will and fight not to use Alt+Tab, try a pen instead of a keyboard.

Fewer mistakes, better quality

I assume you’ve read some articles on proofing and correcting—you can find such posts right here on problogger.net. It’s very important to reread your texts—you always find something to correct.

But it’s even better to rewrite it. Even a few times, if it helps. Leo Tolstoj rewrote War and Peace seven times (my edition of this book is ~1600 pages). But it was simply worth it.

So here’s the trick—if you write the first version on paper, you’ll be forced to rewrite it. And that’s it. Nothing fancy, but honestly, how often do you rewrite a blog post? You probably read it once or twice, edit it, and hit Publish. Maybe you even wait a day or two before that. That’s good, but I’m saying there’s a good chance to make it even better. If you won’t rewrite your text strictly mechanically, you’ll probably have better results.

Creativity and motivation

Yes, you can even affect your thinking with the tools you use—not any particular ones, but with a variety.

Whenever you create a habit, you lose a part of your creative thinking. Or you show your brain how to do so—just work out a rule that works, and repeat it. This way, nothing new will ever happen, only a routine will be born.

Try to write with a pen in a red notepad, another time use a typewriter, later make notes with a 2B pencil on a lined (or maybe plain) piece of paper, then make an exception and use a computer…

This way, each time you write something, it’s different, and it makes you feel like you’re attempting something new. It doesn’t matter how silly all this may sound, the important thing is whether it works for you.

There’s one last advantage of writing with your computer turned off. Eyes. If you’re blogging (which means doing research, commenting, using social media, etc.) and spending much time in front of the monitor, you should use every opportunity to take a break from the screen.

What tricks do you use to mix up your blogging? Share them with us in the comments.

Janek works as a copywriter in the online payments industry, but writes also on many other topics on Across the Board.

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Comments

  1. mario monk says:

    I often create first draft with pen and paper. Best advantages:
    - do it anywhere;
    - mind has time to follow the writing.

    • Gregory C. says:

      I like jotting outlines down with pen and paper, but I’ve yet to really use it for a full post.

      I prefer full-screen programs for writing on my laptop, such as ZenWriter and DarkRoom.

      • Janek says:

        I know what you mean. I mostly use FocusWriter, mainly because I have to work on many operating systems and wanted to have the same tool everywhere. Unfortunately I often have to look back to some other docs and that’s the point, where such full-screen-&-distraction-free editors stop being effective and fun to use.

    • ozpinoy says:

      I have started doing the same too. Writing things on paper. Because ideas comes from everywhere, and I end up writing a paragraph or so on paper!

    • Antriksh says:

      Yes. I’m a geek. I love digital technology. But I totally agree with your second point. Because hand-writing is slow, the brain can follow and think of what to write about next.

  2. nik butler says:

    Blogging without a computer you say ? well yes but we used to call it a diary. Anyway I have been posting entries for every day since Jan1st . What I discovered was that if you write without a computer and you use paper and pen then you change how you think and you tend to be more serial and thoughtful in your creations.

    • krissy knox says:

      @nik I think what you “tend to be” is more of a diary writer, in your case, as you stated. One who writes with a paper and pen is not nec. more “serial and thoughtful” in their writings. You can be very thoughtful using a computer! But I see in your case you like writing diary entries. I checked out your “blog”. This is fine of course, as each person has a different purpose for his/her blog(s). Some people write niche blogs, some write personal blogs which resemble online diaries, some do both. Just saying a “diary” is not more thoughtful, esp bc it is written in pen and paper! :)

  3. Sharon says:

    Yes, I agree so much with this post. I am always being distracted by Facebook, Twitter, or other blogs when I am suppose to be either typing my own or working on something writing related. I do prefer to write with pen and in a notebook (I have many) it is less distracting and makes it easier to play with ideas and make changes.

  4. ptaylor98 says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your advice. There’s one additional tool that I use–audio posting, like saynow.com, which forces me to think before I speak (or write). Different tool–different result!

  5. Brian Yang says:

    What is interesting is that this idea as some parallels to questions like…

    What would you do with your life if you were to die in the next 30 days?

    If you lived on an island for the rest of your life, what 3 things would you bring?

    While the correlation may not be evident, what questions like these do, is create a feeling of permanence, which force it’s viewer to cut down unimportant distractions in life and really think more critically about what really matters…. Which is exactly what the concept of writing without a computer does.

  6. jeff h says:

    I always write first into a notebook. It gives you the opportunity to write in different environments. Sometimes being able to complete a few sentences in a different location can jumpstart your creativity.

  7. Sanjeev says:

    I agree with you that first draft should be without distraction to have a free flow of ideas.

    I use my smartphone for this. Rather then writing everything down (there can be some distraction too), I create a audio note for me. I speak whatever I want and let it record for later use….

    • Janek says:

      If audionotes work for you – that’s great. After all, it’s about finding the tools that work for you.

      And to contrast here with you, I just can’t take audionotes. They’re always less concise, I don’t feel comfortable while making them (at least not as much as when writing) and usually it’s best to be alone in such cases. People tend to “smile” ;)

  8. A great and well thought out article..except for the part that says that two comes after three!

  9. Eileen Gibb says:

    To think that the old masters like Dickens & Robert Louis Stevenson wrote with pen & ink, & their stories flow so effortlessly! They had no digital distractions & no TV.

    • Janek says:

      It’s also said that if a story sounds like written effortlessly, “just like that”, than you can be sure the author worked hard and a lot to make it look like this :)

      • Mr. Janek,
        Before you continue to advise your readers how to focus when writing, you need to learn the difference between than and then. By the way, as a professional writer, I found your article boring.

        • Janek says:

          Oh, I know the difference very well, it’s just one of the typos I make most often (I’m really glad you assumed my lack of knowledge right away instead of pointing out a typo – I didn’t have to blush for shame). Of course no spell checker will “underline” it and, unlike some professional writers, I don’t always have my editor around when the guy is actually needed.
          Anyway, thanks for you thought. Especially for being friendly and constructive, instead of just introducing yourself.

  10. Jacob says:

    Am I the only one that completely disagrees with your creativity point. You’re telling me that I have to have discipline in my brain to be creative? Last I checked, it was the most free people who go with the flow that create the most remarkable pieces. So, explain to me how, by having structure and rigidness in my brain, that I’ll be creative.

    The best advice I can give someone looking to be creative is to not care. Just write. If there’s an error, just keep writing. There’s a period in your writing called the editing time. That’s when you worry about errors. Just write and that creates the best creativity. Having to be so nervous about whether you make a mistake on the type writer means you’re not going to be as creative.

    • krissy knox says:

      Jacob, I agree with you, at least as far as my own blogging (my writing, editing and posting) style goes. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I know people who do not just let their creativity flow, and end up writing and rewriting and reediting what they plan on posting, and then never post. one particular person I am speaking of, who I will not mentioin, has been working on some posts via a “word processor” for months. He just can’t seem to believe they are good enough. He is getting hung up. He used to just prepare his post online in draft form (in his particular blogging platform), edit it quickly (of which he was able to do a very quick and excellent job), and then quickly commenced to post his blog post. his writing was delightful. when he went to writing on paper and the word processor, his creativity stuggled. He was still able to write, but nothing came quickly, it was laborious to him, didn’t flow, and took him months. He has not posted in months. I am encourating him to get back to writing and posting his entries online. I’m sure this will come soon. I myself have not been able to write in some of my blogs in awhile either, but this is not because of writer’s block, it is because of taking care of my husband who has been struggling with 3 cancers and complications from those cancers and the treatment for them. So I shouldn’t talk about others. But I will get back to writing soon. I’m just saying doing the pencil and paper thing doesn’t work for many. I have seen it totally ruin some blogger’s creativity. On the other hand, it does help one such as Janek. So to each his own! I am just wondering how many other Janek’s out there there are! I wonder where Janek actually found a typewriter? :)

      • Janek says:

        I found mine in the basement :) And bought another one for about 2 or 3 dollars. Unfortunately there are no more companies that produce typewriters, but you still can get some old ones. And the prices are between nothing and hundreds of dollars, depending on the machine’s history.

    • Janek says:

      Well, I don’t find articles like this telling anyone what he or she should do. Even though they sound like they’re “stating facts” – it’s only a way of expressing. These are all presentations of different approaches and I consider my post as a proposition, not really “telling what you should do” or even advising. If someone doesn’t like it and/or is more efficient with another method – that’s great! Furthermore, he or she should write a post about it! ;)

      And as for what you say: I’m not nervous about making mistakes, I’m just using the fact (yep, the fact, done a lot of analyzing here) how my subconscious works and trying to play with it. For people like you “just writing” will probably be better, and for people like me it’ll be perfect way of creating exceptionally long and wordy pieces of text. So again: there’s no best method, they’re all relative.

  11. Joseph says:

    I agree with you Janek.
    I always write with Pen and Paper and I even have notebooks I use for my writings.

  12. Chris McCoy says:

    I’m only 19, I’ve never even seen a typewrite in real life haha! Although I do enjoy writing with a pen and paper because, just like you mentioned, a computer is the greatest distraction of all. All too often do I get sidetracked on Facebook or IMDb!

  13. Lela says:

    I always write with pen and paper because it helps me to focus better and to come up with better papers, articles, post, and anything else that I write.
    I think people have lost the art of writing and other things due to computers. I also think that doing things the non computer/ tech way allows you to grow and improve. I think a computer takes all of this away because you have spell check and the ability to look up anything and find the answers. Where as if you didn’t have a computer you would have to remember rules and how to do things instead of blindly following what you see on the internet.

  14. Renee says:

    I have just started blogging. Writing is certainly a process. When I am writing a post (which I do on the computer) I shut down everything else. No emails or social media. I concentrate on writing. I also write and do not post immediately. I will re-visit the post later or the next day and the the day after and edit as needed. I realize my writing and blogging is in the beginning stage and I put forth the effort to making each post a good one.

  15. Carrie Smith says:

    I absolutely agree with the points outlined here. Some of my best writing has come from jotting down ideas and editing on paper first. There is just something about using the old fashioned pen and paper. The tip about giving your eyes a break is very important too!

  16. Eric Murphy says:

    Yes I too think when a computer is connected to internet then it gets most distracting tool. By the way I liked the post. Thanks for nice share.

  17. janwong says:

    Blogging without a computer is a must! I usually get ideas when I’m not at my desk and we all know keeping them in the head wouldn’t be a good idea. Evernote is a great app to take them down – the syncing makes notes transfer much easier :)

    • Janek says:

      I actually tried to use Evernote and some other apps like this and somehow cannot get used to doing so. I mean making quick notes on a smartphone isn’t really quick – I do it much quicker and better with a simple pen(cil). And the mobile aspect (with the said syncing) would be the only reason for me to use such apps. Using Evernote on a PC is using a computer again, and that’s what I’m escaping from.
      However, there’s one advantage here, which is having everything in one place. I have dozens of notepads and pieces of paper lying around everywhere and stuck in my pockets. I like it, but it sometimes takes too long to find something specific…

  18. Hi Janek,

    Super creative approach here.

    Blogging on paper makes us think, and focus. More concentration translates into a better blog post.

    I usually write offline to minimize distractions. Many times I write my inspirational quotes with pen and pad. Easier to churn them out with less interference.

    Thanks for sharing.

    RB

  19. Dena Crain says:

    I like this post; thanks! As a teacher of design fundamentals to patchwork quilters, I find my students are often hooked on their computers, especially to one popular piece of software that promises to turn them into instant quilt designers. In my classes for Quilt University, I encourage students to draw by hand with paper and pencil (and an eraser so they can modify lines at will). Without fail, those who heed my advice discover something of themselves in their artwork that the computer had been denying them. The experience of drawing by hand is up close and personal, challenging in a way that is completely different from working on a computer where the learning curve has more to do with how to manage the software than with how to draw (!), and it inevitably produces better results!! The suggestion to blog by writing on paper first appeals to my sense of the original and the productive. It seems to me like a very good idea!!

  20. ozpinoy says:

    This article/blog, actually hits the spot! Over the course of last 10 weeks. I have been writing slow mail (long story short) writing to my family overseas in slow mail for more personal touch.

    What I have found accidentally, is exactly what you just wrote! I am more focused when I am writing on paper, more selective on what I write, and think a bit more before I write. Because as we know, once you ink that paper, there’s no going back unless you re-write it, liquid paper it, or cross it out.

  21. Paul says:

    Very good stuff Janek. Where is a pen? Can’t seem to find it when I need it. So I continue using my word processor. However, what I do is type and when I get the urge to check stats, email etc. I go get a drink, exercise or do yard work. When I am done my thoughts are much clearer. My inspiration level shoots up and the comments, posts and social interaction are easier to do.

    Oh shoot I’ve found my pen…too late I’ve already posted my comment and I did it without checking on anything else. Thanks for this post.
    Paul

  22. I usually do write my posts on paper first for easier editing and so I can have a physical hard copy proving im the original author.

    The only instances where I dont use paper is if im either inspired right at the moment to post something or curating a post.

    Lately ive been posting straight from my android phone using the wp mobile app..i can ppst videos and pics or do curation type posts w the wordpress app for android!

  23. Andrzej says:

    I love the idea of using pen and paper. My trouble is I am dyslexic. I have always had sever difficulty forming the words and sentences I want on paper. When word processors first started to come in (Amstrad PCW 8512 was the first I had access to), I could suddenly get onto paper the thoughts in my head. Where before I would have to agonise over painfully writing each letter, now my ideas flowed with the ease at which they came to mind.

    Now I find the iPhone to be a most useful tool. I write everything on there as I get new ideas. Simplenote and Springpad are superb for that, as is the wordpress app. Then I can go to my pc and put the thoughts or drafts together as and when I want.

    • Janek says:

      And that’s the point – to find the tools which will suit you best!
      By the way, I envy everyone who can make notes with a smartphone. I always loose my thought before finishing such a note. Perhaps it’s just a matter of practice…

  24. Janek says:

    Thanks for all your responses. It’s really great to hear that pens&paper aren’t dead yet.

    By the way, do you get “the strange look” from others when making notes or writing a longer piece the traditional way? I get it pretty often, followed by a question like “is your laptop broken again?”

  25. I always prefer paper, as in books to e-books and pen/paper to the screen traditionally. It’s easier on my eyes and it’s important to take breaks away from the computer so you don’t strain your body or eyes.

    I like how a paper is a blank canvas, I use it for math as well as writing things out (either computer paper or a notebook). It allows ideas to flow freely, gives you time to re-access your content, and of course makes it so that less errors are prone to pop up in spelling and grammar.

    I will be doing this for blogging, I love writing and expressing my thoughts. Makes me nervous, but I gotta do it. :)

    Whether it comes to math/science, art, or writing, I always loved pen and paper. I agree the computer is a huge distraction, sometimes it’s good to limit yourself to the device.

    I wouldn’t do everything on paper/pen, but i would certainly start my projects off there and finalize it on the PC. Just to get my thoughts flow and work out roughly what it is I want to do, I’ll take paper and pen over my distracting but awesome custom built desktop.

  26. When I first started blogging I didn’t own a computer. I had to write it all down and then go to my local internet cafe. I’m glad those days are over.

  27. Junaid says:

    I liked your point of loosing your natural style… :) good post

  28. Yes, I am with you on this one, Janek. I have written on this topic on occasion myself.

    Pen (or pencil) to paper is still the ultimate writing experience, and I know that all writers would do themselves a favor to use these tools at least every once in a while to get reacquainted with the way all writers used to work.

    Thank you for the excellent piece, Janek!

    Peter

  29. krissy knox says:

    @Janek, Thanks for the post. I’m definitely in the minority here, I write my posts online. I don’t feel I need a typewriter to use as a discipline to be creative or concise. I do use a pen and paper on occassion to write a post idea down when it comes into my head, so that I will remember to use it to develop it into a post at a later date. But even often then, I’ll email the idea to myself, or put it down in a document, and that way I won’t forget it. It works best for me. I guess what works best for each individual is the best thing to do. :)

    • Janek says:

      Thanks for your comment. I must say you’re the type of minority I like most :) I’m not a fanatic of any kind, trying to persuade anybody of my vision and telling.
      If I was to state my approach, I guess it would be “try as much as you can or want to, and choose the method that suits you best”. And all I’m doing is presenting one of those many, many ways.

      And to tell the truth, I do use computers and even make notes when having a computer closer than a notepad :)

  30. illana says:

    Am I. The only one that found a certain ironyin the fact that this artile was quite long? I got the gist in the first few paragraphs and yet you restated it in several different ways. The funny thing is, I do actually agree – it just could have been half the length and I still would have gotten the point. It is a solid point though. When I had to write the ‘old way’ for school, I got much better at getting to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible. Seems laziness absolutely breeds creativity.

    • Janek says:

      Thanks very much for your thought! It’s actually quite important, but not stated clearly in the text. What I mean is that I find the length relative, not absolute. So when I say that writing “the old way” will make someone’s style more concise, it should be compared to his own style when using a computer.
      For example, I’m quite famous among my friends of writing long emails (which nobody read because of the length ;)). So I guess it would be no problem for me to write a few times longer piece and saying even less, if I didn’t pay attention, used my computer, didn’t revise etc.

      But I absolutely agree with you that the same information could be said in fewer words. I fact, a short bullet list would be just fine, but then it probably wouldn’t get published :) In my opinion at least 95% of “articles about writing” on the web could be replaced by a one or a few sentences without loosing the core information. But I guess there must be some reason it doesn’t work that way :)

  31. Hayley says:

    I use Notepad in my Black Berry Bold when there is some idea occuring on my mind. The ideas usually come to me before sleeps, on streets and in boring talks.
    Pens and paper are my second choice when my eyes get strained with LCD screen.

  32. David Wang says:

    Ha! I thought that this would be a post about blogging from your iPad or something.

    Anyway, I like the idea of writing on paper to force yourself to re-write, but I had always thought that one of the keys to blogging is volume – you need to put your post out there to get feedback and improve. I think writing on paper, re-writing on the computer and a few more rounds of editing will detract from that. Am I completely off track here?

  33. Lainey says:

    Sometimes it’s good to mix things up. I like to go to a coffee shop with a pen and paper when I have writers block.

    This change of scenery helps to get my creativity going and I am able to write once again.

    I transfer this to the computer later in the day.

  34. I love pen and paper. It makes for much more careful writing!

  35. Deepak says:

    Where canwe find Typewriters these days as you mentioned. I don’t write my post either on paperby pen oron typewriter and i thinbk this is the reason why my Posts are lack of quality.

  36. This is an interesting article. (I am behind in my blog reading and just read this.) I work with Christian fiction author D.I. Telbat and he recently wrote a post including this very subject: writing with pen and paper. He prefers to write his first drafts of his novels by hand. We’re talking about usually 300+ pages!

    David Telbat wrote, “Enjoy writing your manuscript, but don’t write as fast as you can. If you’re a fast typist, you may want to write the first draft by hand, as I often do. IMHO, the slower you write, the more attention you can pay to detail, and the more artistic your book will read. Later, you can type up the second draft as fast as you want.”

    He’ll be glad he’s not alone in his preference! Thanks for the post, Janek. You made some other good points too.

  37. josh says:

    The author of this blog post has a really good point. Even when I started writing short stories as a kid I always used a computer. I don’t ever remember the last time I wrote anything by hand. It very possible that it’s a generational thing my generation who were born in the 80′s a grew up in the 90′s. Used computers for reports,papers pretty much anything that had to be written was done with a word processor, and not pen and paper. I think next time I do a blog post a write it on paper before writing in a word processor. :-)

    • josh says:

      Oops a write should be I’ll write.. see another reason I’ll use a pen and paper and not a word processor.

  38. Well, I do this too. I often write down what I want to put on my blog. So I think I am able to hone my skills.

    - Jack Leak