This is just one example that happened in a brainstorm. As a rule I actually always plot on paper before I start any writing; whether it be a script, a concept, a strategy; you name it. It is something I have been doing for ages without really thinking why. What exactly am I talking about? What do I mean by “paper and pen – getting back to basics”, “plotting on paper” etc.? Well there is a theory that better ideas are generated by sitting down with a pen and paper before getting onto the computer, whether it is for design, writing or strategising.
Why is this? One of the most interesting studies I came across was by Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington. She says that handwriting differs from typing because handwriting is formed by executing sequential strokes to form a letter and this action activates massive regions in the brain involved in thinking, learning and memory. This might sound like a pretty dry theory especially when it comes to juicy creativity. But if you think of it, accessing more areas of the brain is pretty good when it comes to creativity and idea generation isn’t it?
I think this fact applies whether you are writing or drawing, that there is something in the eye, paper, and hand relationship that almost creates a zone of concentration. Think of it, sitting at a computer you are sitting straight, looking ahead – well you should be. Your peripheral awareness is wide open. This leads to easy distraction, whether you are aware of it or not. The computer and a blank page on the computer can be a stress signal – once you put finger to keyboard you are racing towards your end goal of getting something to client or into production. In that space clear thinking is challenged.
But, when you sit with laptop closed, computer off and a blank piece of paper in front of you and you start writing or drawing it is an intimate world of you, the paper and what you are creating; a cosy space for ideas to walk onto your page and grow. I asked a designer friend if he ever draws first and he said “Actually, I stopped sketching a while ago. Why?” I told him this theory and he lit up and said “It’s true! I might not draw but when I use the Wacom tablet I immediately move closer to the screen and get totally involved in what I am doing. But when I use the mouse and keyboard I sit way back.”
Interesting isn’t it? So if you do put pen to paper before putting finger to keyboard, great. Do you do it before every project? Is it something you need to do more mindfully? And if you generally don’t, maybe it is something to try that could really create some awesome results. Whatever you decide, have fun, play a bit on paper and let your mind roam free.