A Book in the Hand
Published on July, 30th 2018
By Greg Wells
The power and potential of technology are well known and constantly in your face – from Apple ads to your Kindle to that app your co-worker is raving about. But when it comes to sheer creativity, there are significant advantages to leveraging the power and possibility of old school tools: physical books and pens.
Four years ago, I had a chance to spend a bit of time with Richard Branson. I know everybody references him, and it’s hard to relate because he’s hyper wealthy and has degrees of freedom that most of us don’t have. But during a Q&A session I sat in on, he explained that he always carries a notebook with him for ideas. A physical notebook. Since then, I always make sure I have one on hand. Whenever I travel, I go into a bookstore and look for a beautiful notepad. I also collect them from people I meet, like an incredible one I was given in India made from colored leaves pressed together.
What I have discovered is that writing in a notebook is an incredibly fluid way to record and expand ideas. It’s also a stimulating way to look back through past thoughts. By flipping, scanning or stopping to read carefully, you take a trip back and your brain starts making connections. The sequence of the pages links the cluster of ideas in your mind and sparks fly. You see which ideas led forward and which ideas got crossed out or bolted.
The other thing I find super helpful is having a pen I use specifically for creating. A good pen flows over the page, it helps ideas come up and out. Creativity is about letting go and getting out of your own way, and a good pen will get you going and keep you going. For me, that pen is usually carbon fiber and steel, something heavy that generates momentum. For you, it might be something different. Maybe you are a multi-colour creator who needs a bucket of sharpies. Maybe you sketch and need some 2B pencils and a sharpener. Maybe you love to use a pencil stub. It doesn’t matter. Just figure out what works for you and make it happen.
On the flip side, when you are taking ideas in, it’s worth exploring the benefits of actual books. I’m a huge fan of reading on an iPad or Kindle. They are amazing options, especially when travelling or taking in large volumes of content in a hurry. But when it’s time for a deep dive into a subject, there is no substitute for an actual book.
A book is a world of its own. It frees your mind. It physically, mentally and emotionally carries you away. This is partly because of the tangible sensation of the book in your hands: its weight, its texture, the feeling of turning the pages, and immediate awareness of how far you have travelled on the journey the author laid out for you. All of that combines to transport you into new ways of thinking.
As an example, I recently worked my way through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci, which I now keep with me in my office. It’s the kind of book that you end up flipping back and forth through, partly because there are stunning images. I actually have the same book on my iPad and did a bit of the reading there as well. No contest. The experience of reading the actual book, holding it in my hand and connecting to DaVinci through Isaacson’s compelling narrative, was far and away more powerful than using the technology.
A book in the hand is worth it.
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