If Only I Could Write On the Pages of a Blank Screen

Years ago, I wrote a post about using my then-new iPad. I tried to find the post in the archive of the many online-catacombs that I’ve dug and filled, but I can’t find it. The post had something to do with the contention between the digital and analog worlds that we navigate. I must have written that post over five years ago, and the debate on ebooks vs. “real”-books was going strong.

Not too long ago, I put together a simple website about how Evernote can be used in the classroom for one of my classes. While working on the site, I came across a little bit of information that rekindled my interest in the interaction between our analog and digital worlds. Most notably, Evernote and Moleskine are cross-pollinating and I’m very interested in finding out if the offspring is fit for survival.

My initial reaction to the project, if it can be called that, is that it’s charming. I’m neither a technophile nor an idealistic nostalgic, preferring to use what’s most appropriate for the task or situation at hand (but with a strong preference for handwriting). Blogging, for example, is made possible by some very clever people who are very good at coding for the internet. I don’t have this same commitment to the internet, as my failed venture Letters’ Lounge attests to; I still have a latent dream of reviving the website, and that’s why I hold onto the URL.

I have also given thought to the idea of writing out my blog posts by hand and then posting an image of the handwritten piece online, instead of typing out each post. My almost illegible penmanship is a major stumbling block to the realization of this idea. Still, it might be a good opportunity to work on improving my penmanship. I don’t know.

I do prefer to do most of my written work by hand, but this has its own set of challenges. I haven’t done an in-depth study, but my sense is that what I handwrite is more intimate than what I type. Writing blog posts is intimate, but it’s nothing compared to what I write under lamplight on the pages of my journal (which I haven’t done very much of lately).

ASIDE: Here is an interesting project that I’ve been made aware of but haven’t looked into: The Girls’ Diary Project.

Too many blank, unopened notebooks, and too much bottled ink.
Too many blank, unopened notebooks, and too much bottled ink.

When I was at McGill, I used to write out my essays by hand, edit on paper, and then type them up. Stating the obvious, I took all of my notes by hand, as well, creating my own system for annotations. Now, I usually just pound out my papers on the keyboard and edit onscreen, and look up PowerPoint presentations when I need information about a lecture. When I was preparing my day- and unit-plans during my last placement, I would do it by hand on paper and then scan them for digital submission. I found that seeing my own handwriting made the information more relevant to me, while also being easier to follow. And, it’s just so much easier to make notes by hand than it is to use Track Changes or creating linking-lines between information in a Word document.

In any case, Moleskine has been a favourite brand of mine for a long time. I don’t remember how I was introduced to the notebooks, but I can’t help but think that a visit to Reid’s was responsible for the love affair. Evernote, on the other hand, is a product suite that I’ve only dabbled with, because I can’t reconcile my interest in the potential of the product with my apathy toward it. But, now the two brands have come together and this means that there must be a clear connection.

So, being the tech-savvy researcher that I am, I asked Terry O’Reilly, of CBC’s Under the Influence, what he thought of the Moleskine brand, via Twitter. This is what he responded with:

The conversation continued thusly:

So, now I have to find an archive of the Age of Persuasion podcasts to get some more information on what Mr. O’Reilly has to say of Moleskine. And, well, I should conduct some research of my own into the brand, as suggested.

About two months ago, feeling the pressure of school, the job hunt, and the isolation I feel in a small town, I decided to go to my local with my journal and a pen. Back in November, I abandoned my fine writing instruments for more practical pens, which you can read about here. What I found as I sat there trying to write was that the joy of writing was missing. Despite all that I wanted to write to a nonexistent audience, I simply couldn’t find the words or the care to put pen to paper. I didn’t want to write. When I thought about why, it became clear to me that I need my fancy pens and paper.

The next day, I pulled out a fancy pen, cleaned it, and refilled it, and then found every excuse to use it. I was writing on less than optimal paper and the pen ran dry quickly, but it was worth it. It felt real nice to find the joy in writing again, in spite of the apparent impracticality. All that was left was to sit down and write in a Moleskine notebook with the pen.

This is where I hit a bit of a wall: how can I digitize the things that I write in the notebook so that I can use them? You see, I have to keep a lot of information on the ready, both as a student and as a teacher. Additionally, this information needs to be digital, if only because I like having stuff available digitally. Well, Evernote and Moleskine have a solution – Evernote Smart Notebooks. You can even use Post-it Notes with Evernote.

Now, the solution isn’t perfect, but the idea is interesting. The biggest drawback, with the Evernote Smart Notebooks, is that you have to have a Premium account to properly use the two products together. I’m also not sure that the OCR will work very well with my handwriting. Despite this, the idea remains intriguing because it implies that I’m not the only person looking for a(n) (affordable) solution of this kind.

There is a very simple workaround: just snap a picture of the pages in your Moleskine and upload them to Evernote for digital archiving. This workaround is important to me because I really want to start using my Moleskine Notebooks and fancy pens as part of my daily routine, without upsetting the digital domain within which I very much exist, as I have a lot of ideas that I want to realize in the next little while.

Anyway, I’m just fascinated by the notion of a positive and productive convergence of analog and digital tools used for the capture, transmission, and preservation of the written word. More than that, I just want to continue to be able to use a nice fountain pen to write things down.

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