Thinking with paper

Liked Thinking is Messy by Anna Havron (Analog Office)

Write on your books.

Write in your books.

It helps you think.

And thinking is messy.

I especially like the Feynman example:

Feynman wasn’t (just) being crotchety. He was defending a view of the act of creation that would be codified four decades later in Andy Clark’s theory of the extended mind. Writing about this very episode, Clark argues that, indeed, “Feynman was actually thinking on the paper. The loop through pen and paper is part of the physical machinery responsible for the shape of the flow of thoughts and ideas that we take, nonetheless, to be distinctively those of Richard Feynman.” (Annie Murphy Paul, The Extended Mind, loc 2842)

I absolutely find different tools allow me to think differently. Digitally, this blog is one writing and thinking tool; Scrivener and its folder structures allow big picture thinking about stories; Excel lets me organize information and pacing. On paper, freewriting in a notebook opens me up to looser, less constrained idea generation and exploration; notecards let me move around scenes and see story structure at a glance. Even within the scope of Scrivener or Excel or my notebook, I have forms that also offer structures for thinking, which occur through their completion.

And the work is often the thinking; the thinking would not happen without the process of transformation between mind and paper. Writing is a catalyst for thought.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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