Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Reorganizing and the Illusion of Progress

Lots of good tidbits from Shane Parrish at Farnam Street:

“We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.” — Petronius Arbiter

“[M]ost of what we say and do is not essential. Eliminate it, you’ll have more time and more tranquility. Ask yourself, is this necessary.” — Marcus Aurelius

A Primer on Fountain Pens

Brett and Kate McKay write A Primer on Fountain Pens. They write about the history and anatomy of fountain pens, as well as giving tips on how to use them in writing and taking care of them. They also list reasons to use a fountain pen for writing:

  • It feels better.
  • It’s better for the environment.
  • More economical in the long run.
  • It makes cursive handwriting look better.
  • It makes you look like a sir.

These reasons aren’t particularly  persuasive. However, Melanie Pinola writes on Why You Learn More Effectively by Writing than Typing. She cites different people and research. Not all of hers are that persuasive, either. I’m still influenced by Haas’s (1989) research showing that writers who use only word processing, in comparison with those who use only pen and paper, plan less conceptually, during prewriting, and overall, but they do more local and sequential planning—whether expert writer or novice. Whether or not these findings are true today with people brought up on electronic media, it’s clear that the physical nature of the writing tool shapes writing processes. And it makes sense that using a pen slows down one’s writing more than a word processor, thus providing more time for thinking.

Thus, I can see writing by hand as more conducive to the beginning stages of writing, of forming ideas, and perhaps also of structuring one’s ideas—then moving to a word processor for editing purposes. However, I doubt that I’ll change my own writing habits. I don’t want to write things down once and then transfer them to the computer.