In Praise of Writing Things Down

I come from a very poor region of South Africa where the illiteracy rate is still extremely high. This means that each and every day I value the ability to read and write. It’s a fantastic gift that most literate people take for granted.

I have always written things down. When I studied, I used to take notes, Not copious notes, but key sentences. I journaled for many many years (mostly when I needed to vent), and still use a paper calendar. For some years I did use Casio, Psion, Palm Pilot and Palm Life Drive electronic planners but ultimately I have always loved paper. Any old paper, any old pen. I can feel my thoughts and feelings pouring out to the paper through my pen as I write down ideas for blog posts or lessons. It relaxes me. To this day, students tell me that the act of writing things down with a pen activates memory in a different way than if they record or type it.

I am an avid list-maker and my organisers holds all these in one place. It holds articles, scribbles, notes, lists, appointments, little bits of paper. No tapping, no waiting for apps to load. No hanging, no blue screen, no internet connection or Wi-Fi necessary. And with a ring binder you can give your planner a spring clean anytime you want – toss what you don’t need, keep what you do, archive old pages and it just keeps going, evolving and developing with you. I love nothing more than seeing a well-used calendar or notebook after it has done its duty and is crinkly and full of memories.

I believe that the act of writing things down helps me remember them better. In addition, dumping things from my brain to paper takes off pressure to remember them, and creates mental space for me to concentrate on more immediate issues.

My way of using paper is a mixture of making my to do list for the coming week on Sunday according to my work schedule, and then jotting things down as I go during the week. When I am teaching a class and I promise to send them a link or exercise, I write it down immediately or I will forget it by the time the lesson is over.

I think many women carry a mental load of which they are unaware. A women is generally the person who remembers all the family birthdays, is responsible for buying birthday and Christmas gifts, remembers family dentist appointments and school sporting events, creates the grocery lists, knows when school projects need to be done and what needs to be bought to complete it etc etc. Even if other people actually carry out the tasks, women often take the mental load of remembering what happens when. And for me, paper is always the way to go.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

6 thoughts

  1. That is the most information in a small/precise intentional manner that is absolutely essential in a woman’s life. Thank you for the insights you’ve shown me for several years. Have a blessed day with your paper, pen, and journal.

  2. Hallelulia, a felllow traveller. Janet, just about everything you mentioned I do. I use a Filofax I bought art the Harvard Coop in 1994 and use it everyday.

  3. I totally agree. I use Filofaxes, mainly vintage A5, Deskfaxes and a couple of pocket ones, all the time. Diary, lecture notes, notes on books I’m reading, journal, points to discuss with friends, etc etc. I’m 76 and writing and reading keeps my brain healthy, plus walking and gardening. I love your daily posts. Thanks Janet.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with absolutely everything you wrote… Writing helps with my anxiety. I have too many things in my head and my head is quite small so unloading on paper is a necessity!… Unfortunately, I’m always looking for the best planner, the best notebook, the best pen and the best method overall… Seeing many different gorgeous planners and systems is really not helping!…

  5. I must admit that I am a technophile as well as loving my fountain pens and paper, so I have a foot in both camps. In fact, when I look through old hand-written journals, I find lots of entries about my lovely computers and gadgets! The one huge benefit I find about paper is that it gives things a physical presence in the world. I always feel that what is stored on a computer or a phone is out of sight and out of mind. If it’s there in a book it is much more real.

  6. This is beautiful! I’m a bit late to the writing party; I have a fine motor control impairment which has always made writing and typing a bit of an ordeal for me. The one bit of writing I did consistently was letter writing; I have always been a great letter writer but let it lapse over the last decade as email took over. But when I needed to get control over stuff at work I found paper to be the most logical choice for me. And when I started writing I found myself writing more and more, both on paper and in type on a computer. I took up letters again and mail out several a week. I have started writing essays, none of which have yet been published on any blog but are there for me to read and tool with. I take prodigious notes now, make dozens of lists, and feel like writing has given me great control over my life and helped me manage my ADD by allowing me to record my thoughts rather than need to act on them at the moment. It really is a great gift, not to be taken for granted.

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