While working at a bagel shop recently, I decided to forgo my laptop to read some printouts and take actual notes with a pen. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one seeking an analog assist that day.
A couple tables away from me, a guy about my age was jotting notes in a spiral notebook, and behind me an older gentlemen wearing a hipster ball cap — that is, one without a team logo — was creating what looked like his own fantastical world with a small notebook and colored pencils. Two women were on laptops, but a younger guy was reading a newspaper. I even witnessed one man reading a physical book, and so was the woman at the corner table.
Arguably, the urge to unplug has never been greater, and shutting down our desktop computers — or setting aside our laptops, phones and tablets — gives us a much-needed break from the barrage of nonstop news cycles and social media feeds.
Writing is one of the best ways to unplug; going analog can even help you write better.
1. Write something, anything, in longhand.
This is how all people used to write before they learned to type. Few physical acts reveal an individual’s creativity more than their handwriting. From jagged cursive to loopy letters, longhand writing allows us to play with our muse while keeping our brains sharp. No mindless tapping required.
2. Listen to records.
The simple act of removing a round and shiny slab of vinyl from its jacket and an inner sleeve, placing it on a turntable, clearing the dust and gently lowering the needle on a favorite song can be one of the most rewarding and relaxing tasks of the day. Read the liner notes and pay attention to the music. These passive acts can help you get in a writing groove.
Not long ago, in an editorial meeting with one of my clients, a fellow writer doodled all over his copy of the agenda — filling nearly all whitespace with images in which he substituted eyeballs for marbles, tires and other circular objects. Watching him doodle captivated me more than the meeting itself, and I found myself wishing I were a better doodler. Doodling engages the brain and enhances creativity — serving as practice for when you turn those images into words.
The next time you feel the urge to turn off and tune out, consider taking an analog break. Doing so before it’s time to write might help you unleash a new level of creativity as your fingers hover over the keyboard and you face a blank screen.