to laptop or not to laptop….

I’m about to leave for a vacation and there are long flights ahead. For me, a plane is a great place to write… You’re trapped in a seat and the Internet is out of range = no distraction. (Assuming your row is baby free, and your neighbors are quiet, keep-to-themselves sorts, of course.) And so, whenever I begin packing for trip like this, I wrestle with whether to bring my laptop.

Recently I’ve been spending too much time in front of the computer, and there’s a part of me that wants to leave the thing at home; to take a vacation from that part of my life as much as any other. But the thought of doing so makes me twitchy, so addicted am I to working on my laptop, surfing the web, and playing in Photoshop. Then again, I don’t want to have the hassle of pulling my laptop out at security, of carrying that extra weight, and worrying about its safety in a hotel room.


Yesterday I read a post on Red Ravine on the power of journaling...a lot of which happened to coincide with some of my recent thinking on the topic. As I’ve written here before, I often have several notebooks/journals going at once. Having a computer hasn’t stopped me from keeping a notebook. But it has slowed down my use of them. My journaling is fractured. This blog is a kind of journal, and I have a collection of Word documents on my hard drive organized by month and year that are another kind of journal. And then there are the notebooks, which fill in the gaps and serve as places to record writing ideas.

It’s hard not to think about what would happen if I contained all journaling on paper. I certainly might enjoy the process more. There’s something about looking back over the handwritten pages. The handwriting, the pen marks and the doodles around the edges make it more personal. I do like writing and drawing whatever comes to mind on an actual piece of paper. And would keeping all of my ideas and thoughts in one place produce better writing? More writing?

But. When it comes to writing a full essay, something more polished and complete, a notebook isn’t enough. I can’t write fast enough, I can’t edit, cut, and paste. I get frustrated. Which brings me back to the laptop decision… what if I want to work on a longer piece while I’m on the plane?

I’m really tempted to do an experiment and leave my poor laptop behind. Instead, I’d bring two notebooks: one for a travel journal, and one for simply writing… Oh, but my typing fingers get twitchy just thinking about it….


2 thoughts on “to laptop or not to laptop….

  1. Leave the damn thing behind! Writing those journals by hand is like the farmer spreading manure over the fields. It’s a very important process that lets flowers (i.e. finished work) grow later. As you know, I’ve been writing a short book by hand, and have now, after 8 or 9 months of writing, been typing things up. It works very well, as I’ve subconsciously been editing and revising.

    I think there’s a “handwriting state of mind,” if that makes any sense. But maybe that’s only because I’ve been reading “Preface to Plato,” a book about the change in Ancient Greece from a society where education was oral (e.g. reciting poems and other oral texts) to one where writing and written texts became the norm. The author, Eric Havelock, says there was an “oral state of mind” before literacy became ubiquitous, that people actually thought and perceived the world differently.

    Havelock writes about ancient people “memorizing” works that seem dauntingly long and complex to us today, who simply don’t have to. How did they do it? “Only … by exploiting psychological resources latent and available in the consciousness of every individual, but which today are no longer necessary.”

    Well, I think there’s something to be said for writing by hand, rather than typing first. Typing is clean and efficient and clearly a boon to us, but handwriting uses those latent psychological resources we don’t use as often today. You should travel lightly on your vacation, with your mind and some pens and paper.

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