Backwards Thinking


A 5 year old business card
My old business card, I can’t find the original jpeg file though

Or should that be thinking backwards. Recently I have been finding myself rediscovering older thinking and going back to earlier ideas. For a start I decided to go back to my original title for my research and for my thesis, I also found a business card on my desk that showed marks into the clay that I had recently tried and thought was a new idea for my work. The business card was from my final year at university and I stopped making the marks as a tutor told me it made the work “too busy”.

Also recently I have been thinking a lot about writing, this is because I am in the process of writing up my research for my thesis. I always write initially with pen on paper as this is how I feel most comfortable, plus I then have a physical recording rather than a digital one, I tend to write in notebooks that I carry as I go out and about. But because writing long hand can take a long time it is only good for short notes.

This week I was on twitter and found an article on writing in shorthand, I spotted it in my feed and thought I would have a look. I have considered shorthand before but convinced myself it would take too long to learn, and that I wouldn’t be able to translate my own writing. Looking at it again I can see applications within my ceramics work, o I think I will teach myself the Gregg system as I reward once I am into the revisions of my thesis.

Over the weekend I checked my emails and gave myself some time to read Austin Kleon‘s Weekly newsletter I have to say my favourite thing in it was this talk:

“Type as quickly as you can and always carry a pencil”

I was stunned by it, I knew from my teacher training there was research that showed notes were better taken with pen on paper, and that for thinking creatively I knew from my own experience that pen on paper was better. I had already started thinking about how I couldn’t get things down fast enough and was losing my thoughts mid pace.

For some reason I hadn’t considered that getting things down faster on the computer as this doesn’t work for me, for most of my writing it flows better if I write it on paper first. Merely writing on a computer is so uncomfortable, it always feels like you have to be accurate or you get the red squiggles under your words, as I can’t spell at the best of times it slows me down as I want to go back and correct. That is why I have been considering short hand I wonder if it helps with the bottle neck as he puts it.

The one thing that I knew but had forgotten is how amazing it is to write with a pencil. Don’t get me wrong I love pens too, when I moved from pencil to pen my sketching improved to no end as it was bold and I had to be more assertive and decisive about marking a mark than I did with a pencil. My favourite pen is a uni-ball eye micro for drawing and I assumed for writing too.

I actually wrote this whole blog post with a pencil and it seems so much more natural than using a pen. My grip is slightly higher which works as it doesn’t matter what angle I use the pencil from, I also don’t have to grip as hard because the pencil isn’t as slippery as a plastic pen. I don’t want to turn back to using a pen this is a revelation, except it isn’t.

As I write this I remember back to college being an obstinate seventeen year old and arguing for being allowed to continue to use a pencil rather than a black pen as was standard for most students, as writing in pencil felt so much more normal and was the only way I could keep up when making notes. At the time I fought to continue to use pencil except in exams where the requirement was black pen. I don’t remember not using a pencil for writing any more, at what point it was in those fourteen years, but today I decided thinking back to those times I was right.

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One Comment

  1. Good for you!

    One of the mythologies we have is that our expressions, creative and otherwise, are simply the translations of some inner process, and that getting words down, or even getting a pot off the wheel is just like pulling some preformed idea from its imaginative storage place inside our minds. We think of it as like pulling a string of beads from the dark box of our minds.

    Sometimes it does seem to work this way, we CAN have ideas that we then seek to bring out into the external physical world. But the truth is also that we often don’t know what we are going to say until we say it. We are not always RECORDING our thoughts as much as we are sometimes simply building them. We are discovering what we think by actually doing the thinking, and expressing is one of the basic ways we do our thinking. Thinking and saying are not always two different activities. That’s the myth. Sometimes saying actually IS thinking, and we do it with our mouths as thoroughly as we do it with our hands. Its not simply a ‘mental’ activity…..

    So of course it matters whether we are more comfortable using a pen or a pencil, or whether typing is just as good. We can be trained to do it differently, but the process is not therefor agnostic. Having different tools that aid the expression actually helps determine what the expression will be. And if some tools are roughly interchangeable, not all tools are. If you can throw pots on a wheel turning counter clockwise, try making something on a wheel that spins the other way. If you are used to ribbing your pots, see what its like not using a rib at all. If you use water to make it easier to thin the walls and manipulate the clay, try throwing without water……

    How we express things, WHAT we can express, even, is in part a reflection of the means we have of bringing the expression to life. The thing expressed is birthed by a particular mother and father, and different parents will end with different children….

    Or so it seems to me :)

    Good luck!


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