The Pen is mightier than the Keyboard

My favourite pen and notebook

For the last few weeks I’ve been meddling with my writing methods. Nothing that would be noticed by a reader, but I’ve been playing around with how I get my ideas from conception to publication so that things don’t become stagnant. I’ve previously just typed up pieces based on loose notes that I had scribbled in my notebook combined with some ideas that I would have had when outside, but had not taken the time to write down. For the last few weeks though, I’ve been toying around more with putting pen properly back to paper. It’s not something I’ve done at great length in the last few years. When I was a student I was eagerly hand-writing lecture and seminar notes with gusto, looking down on those who used a computer during academic sessions. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, not the keyboard is mightier than the sword. If this was how I felt just a few years ago, why the sudden change?

I’m actually finding the whole hand-writing process a lot more enjoyable than I thought I would. My thoughts are flowing easier, I’m getting distracted less easily and there are no concerns about my eyes straining at a computer screen for a long time. In fact, I am thoroughly enjoying not being glued to a screen. It’s just overall an enjoyable experience. I get to use my favourite type of pen. You don’t hand-write through all of school for the majority of your life and not find a type of pen that you prefer. I can use my favourite pen and write in my favourite notebook, picked up in Stromness on mainland Orkney on a family holiday in September 2019, littered with Zoom quiz answers, doodles and assorted notes.

I actually have several notebooks on the bookshelves in my room, but they’re all full. Some of them are over 6 years old, containing seminar handouts and lecture notes from my first year of university. Others are full of random scribblings: bits of unfinished writing here, the odd haiku there. Nothing to write home about, yet I’ve kept a hold of them. I know I don’t and won’t ever need them again, but there’s something inside me stopping them getting thrown out. Sentimentality, perhaps? Or the beginning of a slippery slope into hoarding that’ll one day have me appearing on a Channel 5 television programme about the most cluttered houses in the UK. I’m pretty sure I know which it is, and it isn’t my 15 minutes of fame.

The whole experience of writing by hand also feels more authentic, more ‘me’. It feels more human. My handwriting has gotten worse over the years, and it’s starting to become illegible, but it carries part of my identity. Through the hand-written word I am connecting myself to an ancient tradition, one performed across the world for thousands of years. I am reconnecting with the generations of those who wrote letters to their loved ones, courting and divorcing through legally binding hand-written contracts. War and peace have both been made by the written word and it a tradition that we shouldn’t be slipping away from. It’s part of our heritage.

OK, so in answer to my previous question regarding whether I’m sentimental or not, I think the answer is a resounding yes. Part of my personality is definitely a drive towards sentimentality, but I don’t see this as such a bad thing. Being sentimental is being tenderly nostalgic about something, whether old friends or places or relationships that have moved on. That have changed. It’s not just in my nature, but it’s in our DNA to sentimentalise.

The sentimentalist in me often comes out when I’m out walking. What with the new changes in lockdown and there being some confusion as to how far we can go or what we can do, I’m finding it easiest to stay in my village which is not great for the explorer in me, however the sentimentalist is having a wonderful time. The village I live in has signs all over that make my heart throb with romantic ideas about the way things were. There’s a steam railway, a mill pond and the old chimney of a tannery. The whole village is surrounded by small farms, with animals often seen roaming in the fields that are carved up by dry stone walls that weave through the open expanses of greenery.

The old tannery chimney.

It’s very easy for me to think about how the village used to be and the image come out like a Thomas Hardy novel. Romanticising without considering the harsh, brutish reality of what life would be like then compared to now. It’s easy for us to romanticise when our lives are so comfortable, even when we’re outside in the pouring rain.

Romanticisation to me comes with an element of naivety, of not understanding the trials and tribulations of everyday life in such a setting. It is an idealisation, a glorification of things that may not perhaps have been so glorious. Sentimentalisation, as I have previously said, is an awareness of what has changed, for better or for worse. This indicates a deeper understanding of our current position. Do I keep my notebooks because I want to keep a record of how much I’ve changed? Some of them, maybe. The rest should be thrown out. But I don’t think that we should throw out or destroy what allows us to sentimentalise that upon which our cities, towns and lives are built.

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A charming collection of tales of the outside world and the thoughts it inspires by 24 year old nature writer, Fabian Gartland.

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Northern Stile

Northern Stile

A charming collection of tales of the outside world and the thoughts it inspires by 24 year old nature writer, Fabian Gartland.

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