I grew up on sci fi that promised a paperless office by 2000 or something, and when it comes to offices I think that would have been cool. I spent a huge chunk of my life shifting papers in offices, and filing was never my idea of fun.
And I love my computer, and love being able to communicate with people on the internet!
I also love getting real cards in the post, with friends’ handwriting on them. And not only do I sometimes send handwritten letters or cards, I even enjoy making my own cards sometimes. It’s fun and creative, and it’s fun and creative in a slightly different way from the kind of fun and creative stuff I can do on the computer – I enjoy making digital art, but there’s something more challenging (to me) about making stuff out of real card/paper/bits of ribbon/whatever, the challenge of arranging it nicely and not being able to just click “undo” if something doesn’t work out so well; the challenge of making do with what I actually have, rather than the limitless options I have in the digital realm. It pushes me in a way that I find fun, and there’s a sense of satisfaction when I’ve managed to find a way of fixing it when it’s gone wonky.
And that’s just cards. But stationery – I can go wild in stationery shops, I love buying pretty notebooks and pens and all that. I love the feel of a nice new notebook. I love the crinkly taffeta cover on my diary for this year. I’m very fussy about my stationery. It’s a treat for me, to go stationery shopping. A new pink notebook, a purple gel pen – those are better than chocolate!
But why use these outdated things, why bother when you can do all this stuff so very efficiently on the computer? Who needs a paper diary or address book or notebooks any more?
Well, first of all, efficiency isn’t top of my list of criteria, I’m not some super busy high powered businesswoman with a rushing-around sort of life, I live at a nice slow pace. I’d rather have something I actually enjoy using, if I have the choice.
Also, in some cases I actually find that the low-tech pen & paper option is more efficient for me. I went through a phase of checking out all sorts of online to do lists, and they all seem to me to demand too much from me. Before I could enter an item, I had to work out how to categorise it – but I’m not naturally a categorising sort of person, I’m an INFP and we don’t do structure, we do fluidity. The beauty of word processing software for me is partly because it allows for this fluidity – if I write stuff on the computer I can easily organise it later. But with to do list apps, it seems to be quite the opposite, they require me to plan and organise first before I can enter my data, whereas a paper notepad lets me just scribble on it whichever way I fancy, it lets me write things diagonally if I want to, doodle, underline, draw flowers, whatever! The paper notepad gives me freedom.
This whole rambling was inspired by conversations I had online earlier today, which started from me mentioning that I was trying to fill in my new address book. Yes, a paper one. I looked for ages in the shops till I found one that I really liked, and have been looking forward to the joy of filling it in – partly because it’s an opportunity for a bit of a spring clean, going through my old address book and deciding who is worthy of being included in the new one. A time to acknowledge that some people are no longer part of my life – that feels meaningful to me, and doing it in handwriting makes it more real, it’s something I can engage with emotionally a lot more than just clicking something on the computer to delete someone from my contacts list.
Humans are not machines. We have feelings, and connecting with tangible stuff can actually have emotional significance.
Have you touched some nice paper today? Go on, treat yourself.