Writing on the iPad

As I was working through my seemingly immutable Instapaper queue this morning I came across Jason Snell’s article from earlier this month titled Writing on the iPad; it was as if I had written the article myself.

Over the past six months I made it a point to keep a journal. Not so that I could reflect on my feelings twenty years from now, but so that I could give it to someone very dear to me as a Christmas gift. Rather than keep the journal on my computer as I would have preferred to with any sort of activity requiring me to write extensively though, I chose to forsake the immutability digitality affords and put pen to paper to create something inherently more valuable than it would have been as a collection of text files printed on 8.5x11 paper. Although my handwriting, just as Jason Snell’s, was then and still is — although to a lesser degree now — quite poor, I was very happy with the result. As was she.

That creation process was surprisingly different than any I had employed in the past, and consequentially the result was markedly different than anything I had previously created. Whereas when I write with the intention of publicizing to this and its derivative platforms I edit fastidiously, I found that I spent little to no time editing my journal entries. Not because I was lazy or cared less about the quality of the result, but instead because I didn’t need to edit them: unlike when I write on my computer and — although to a lesser degree — my iPad, where I often write very quickly and spend an inordinate amount of time editing, the constraints writing with a pen and paper introduce forced me to consider each and every word very carefully. This made that writing especially good; in fact, I might even go so far as to say it was some of the best writing I have done in a long time. Although writing on my iPad does bring with it a similar set of benefits, the unique set of constraints the pen and paper approach presents exhibits these quality traits most prominently. These realizations brought me to a particularly interesting and counter-intuitive conclusion I plan to explore in the coming weeks: it is in the presence of great constraints that great achievements are accomplished.