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Scribble Scrabble

Scribble Scrabble?

Two thoughts collided during my self-reflection this week. It started with an article from David Pierce at the Wall Street Journal about handwriting. Pierce explores the effects of the digital world on our penmanship scribble scrabble. He provides a well-framed set of options for getting the written word into electronic format. But Pierce also mentions the positive effects of handwriting on our ability to learn and remember information. When we type on a computer, we are prone to record each word while with writing we will summarize thoughts.

Then I remembered an article I wrote a few years ago about taking pen and paper to meetings rather than laptops. This is my preference because it helps me focus on the meeting rather than distractions of multitasking on my computer. Business meetings would be far more productive if no one was distracted by their laptops!

What insights can we learn from the value of handwritten notes and focused interactions?

Word Play.

I already use a paper notebook to record thoughts and action items throughout the day. While a pad of paper helps  me stay focused at the meeting table, I’m also a keyboard-junkie. I want everything important in electronic format so I can index for searching. I can type faster than I can write and electronic information provides efficiency.

In his article, Pierce discusses taking pictures of hand-written notes and allowing modern technology to recognize the characters for indexing and searching. I love the simplicity of this solution because it removes logistical challenges with writing electronically. It also works for meeting content on whiteboards.

When I write,  I prefer print over cursive. I don’t recall when I made that change, but I remember writing in cursive during high-school to capture notes faster. Print is better for optical character recognition software and gives clarity and precision to my documents. Maybe i’m slower writing print. But it’s legible and precise.

Find time to wrestle with the concepts of note taking, productivity, handwriting if you haven’t already. You might discover some hidden insights about yourself.

Onward and upward!

What if I had started writing earlier?

An article in a recent edition of the alumni magazine from my university contains a story about a family finding letters from a deceased relative who was a college student in the early 1900s. The family agreed to share the letters with the living history program at the university. As you can imagine, these personal notes contained historical information not only about the young student and his feelings but about the campus and the events in the world around him as well.9169068026_53f8cc86f0_k

What if I had started writing earlier in life? I would find stories about network equipment, break-fix of computers, and wiring closets.  I expect I would have recorded commentary about operating systems in servers and computers and how to connect them together. I would have written about the challenges of remotely connecting computers from home via modems or ISDN lines. Most likely I would have analyzed software design and specifications from the viewpoint of a waterfall approach.

More than the technical know-how, I would be curious to see my attitudes and feelings about the subject matter. This is what helps historians get to the next level of understanding of the documents they examine. For me personally, it would provide a glimpse into the technology and business concepts during that day and time. Would I still agree with my own attitude and reflection 20 years removed?

I know now that writing has a role in our lives that can leave a lasting impact. It’s a great habit and hobby to start even if you just for write for yourself. It helps me with the day-at-hand as a way to organize my thoughts and reflect. Written documents provide an artifact to examine later for research. I often look back through my writings for specific keywords to help with formulating my thoughts.  I wish I had started writing earlier in life.  My first blog post was November 8, 2008 and this will mark my 452nd post. It’s been a good journey and I can say better to start late than never.

If you aren’t writing your thoughts somewhere, it’s a good habit to consider. Do it for yourself even if you don’t publish content publicly. You’ll be glad you did.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: Dinuraj K via Flickr Creative Commons.

6 years of blogging. It’s a habit.

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about becoming an accidental blogger. It was a introspective post as I examined my thoughts about writing and the purpose of blogging.   This Saturday will mark 6 years of blogging and this is my 394th blog post on The Merchant Stand. I didn’t set out with a goal to write a specific number of posts. I just started to write.I summarized my thoughts in the Accidental Blogger post as

The writing has given me a place for self expression. It helps me think deeper. It makes me think about practical implications and application of things. I’m learning to write better. I’m learning to process information better.

Typically my inspiration comes from some event that happened in the previous week or some other piece of print that inspired thought. My weekend routine now includes writing and I’d classify it as a habit. I think about writing through the weekend until it’s done. I have a need to satisfy the craving. So I write. It’s not really for audience, although I make my writings public. I write about topics and events that have influenced my life. If others find it useful and converse it’s like a bonus for me.

God willing, I’ll keep writing. Maybe 6 years will turn into 12. Maybe I’ll discover new truths about myself. Maybe I’ll influence others. Maybe I’ll develop new skills. I look forward to the journey with keyboard/pen in-hand.


Writing’s role in our lives

In a recent speech, the principal of my kid’s school talked about the importance of writing in the overall education process of a child. It made me think of my own life where I didn’t really begin writing regularly until I was almost 40. It’s important to me know, but really held no significant meaning while I was in school or even college.

My kids don’t show any motivation to write other than what is required for a graded assignment. Maybe it’s because writing for graded assignments doesn’t always let you write from your heart. Assignments are by definition something that someone else chose for you. But I believe,the best writing comes from a desire within and a passion to write to express feelings and emotions. A post I wrote about a Cooperstown baseball trip comes to mind as a writing that flowed from my mind when I was on an emotional high from a life experience.  It was easy writing and captured a moment and a feeling. My kids haven’t made that leap to enjoy writing. I hope someday they will.

It’s also a challenge for students to embrace regular writing today because we live in media consumption oriented society rather than a creation oriented one. The 1% rule of the internet states that “ only 1% of the users of a website actively create new content, while the other 99% of the participants only lurk”. It’s easy to be a content consumer, but not so easy to be a content creator. In this case I’m referring to content creation as the process of writing thoughts as more than posting pictures and status updates.

As I see it, even if we don’t write for audience, we can write for ourselves. We can write to explore and record our thoughts.We can write to think about and form opinions.  It’s a healthy exercise and has many rewards. This was in part, the principal’s thought. Maximize your learning thinking and writing. It’s never too late to get started.

eLibrary used more than paper library

With my trusty eReader, a 2nd generation Kindle, I have a growing library of eBooks spanning multiple categories. My library contains fiction in the areas of suspense, mystery, fantasy, and paranormal. My non-fiction collection includes books in the areas of marketing, business, biography, and spiritual topics.

In my home office, I have a bookshelf that contains printed books spanning the same types of categories. That’s my pre-eReader library. The collection has decreased in volume over the years because I have given away some books in an effort to reclaim space.

Recently, I referenced some material from a few eBooks in a blog post and it occurred to me that it was not the first time I had used my eBook collection for reference. I asked myself

“Do I reference the eBook material more than paper books because they are my newest books or because it is easier to search electronically to find material I have previously read?”

Do other people, and specifically writers, have the same experience? With my eLibrary, I have referenced passages, notes, and highlights more than I ever did with my paper book library. I didn’t plan it this way. It’s just something I’ve observed.

The answer, at least for me, is due to both characteristics of my eLibrary. While it is easier to search and find material, I think the relative age of the content of the library also means that its top of mind for me to think of as potential reference. Perhaps the biggest contributing factor is that I didn’t start writing/blogging until just before I acquired an eReader. So the probability that I will want to reference material from my collection increased.

The Kindle has built-in search capabilities to make searching for keywords and passages easier than thumbing through paper books. Additionally, Amazon offers a web site that keeps all of my Kindle highlights and notes in one location that is accessible via a web browser. So I can look for some of my references regardless of location and whether or not I have the Kindle with me.

A view from the Kindle online management area

At the end of the day, I think eReaders are turning our Library of information into something that will be more used. I sold books off my bookshelf to make space. That’s not such an issue with the eReader. I can carry a large library with me. The accessibility and ease-of-finding the information is a game changer for our library.