Paper Vs Digital

I fear the laborious task of creating handwritten notes is becoming a lost art. Penmanship used to be such an important part of early education where little fingers with big fat pencils practiced making perfect loopy tails all slanted in the same direction. (And if you couldn’t do that you were urged to consider becoming a doctor where illegible scrawl was the norm, or a pharmacist highly skilled in interpreting all kinds of erratic scribbling.)

We used to write personal little thank you notes, birthday wishes, congratulations, holiday hellos, sent by snail mail, often with photos enclosed. Now we zip off e-mails with attachments. Or send a text message, or post it on Facebook. It’s easier, and it takes less time. But it’s somehow less personal too.

You’d think the list making queen would get a clue and start using the Notes app on her I-Phone instead of doodling on scraps of paper and then wondering where they went. But old habits die-hard. I am also a stationery junkie. I dearly love my gel pens and fancy note pads that have a magnet glued to the back so they can be stuck up on the fridge. Of course they’re never actually there because I take them somewhere else to write on them and then they have this weird habit of going missing.

I also have spiral bound notebooks where I keep important passwords and numbers and ID’s that have mysteriously vacated my brain. I’ve been smart enough to keep these more or less in the same place, by my computer, because they’re completely useless anywhere else. And hopefully completely useless if somebody picked them up and leafed through them because I’ve been cunningly cryptic about what all these doodles mean. (Considering that my son figured out my password and W’s for both our laptops in under 30 seconds, perhaps we’re not as enigmatic as we think.)

Handwritten journals and diaries are now blogs. It’s so much faster to type than to write. More legible. Fewer spelling errors. No erasers or scratching out involved. Thesaurus and Dictionary and Google and Wikipedia at your fingertips. No burning of incriminating evidence required. Just hit the delete button and it’s all magically gone.

Pen and paper was my first love though. I don’t want to completely give up on notes. We don’t have electronic files at work and still record patient files on paper and put them in neatly labeled file folders. Often my writing looks like hell. (I guess I should have been a doctor.) When I take my time it can be beautiful, even if what I’m writing down isn’t so much. “Warned patient to reduce contact lens wearing time” (WD PT < CL WT) written in sky blue gel pen in fat little capital letters. Because I’m a big fan of short forms. Like PITA which you would not like to see on your file if you knew it meant pain in the ass.

Well I’m not going to let you in on any more of my record keeping secrets. What was the question again? Oh yeah – I suppose I prefer my keyboard for most things. If I’d tried to hand write this entire post it probably would have killed me, never mind that I’d still be writing it at midnight tonight. Digital is the way to go if you want quantity and speed. And accuracy. Even doctors have realized this and now their prescriptions are zipped electronically up to the front desk to be printed and picked up on the way out. Pharmacists have either sighed with relief or cursed how boring their jobs have become.

I think it will be a very sad day when post-it notes go digital. Not sure how that will happen but I assume it’s only a matter of time. Sticky notes and a liquid ink pen can keep me happily occupied for a long time. Electronic doodles are going to take over soon enough. Brush up on that scribbling and graffiti before it goes the way of the cave drawing and we all forget what the point was and why it was so much fun.

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