Analog Zen

After putting together the slide deck for my Town Hall talk this coming Wednesday (which I’ll post here later today), I decided to use it as the outline for the first chapter of the book.

Increasingly wary of my propensity to get digitally distracted (and thereby overwhelmed by the task at hand), I kept my computer at arm’s length.  I would occasionally click on the keyboard to advance the slides, but for the most part, I was seated on a couch, hunched over a hardcover notebook, scribbling furiously with a fountain pen, hoping not to stop, or to dissuade myself from the task because of a need to check a reference or verify an idea. I’m not sure if I’ve written anything of great value yet, but it was a wonderfully refreshing process, that may have produced ideas that I didn’t know I had.  This is a wonderfully creative technique that author Garr Reynolds also advocates in his must-own Presentation Zen in “Planning Analog”:

You need to see the big picture and identify your core messages…this can be difficult unless you create a stillness of mind for yourself…there’s just something about paper and pen and sketching out rough ideas in the ‘analog world’ in the early stages that seems to lead to more clarity and better, more creative results when we finally get down to representing our ideas digitally.

Next step: type up what I’ve written, try out some of the ideas with the Town Hall attendees, and further refine the draft.  Then send it, along with a prospectus to the publisher.  As I may have indicated in a recent Facebook status update — I think I’d rather make another documentary!  It’s easier.


  1. I like the idea of using traditional pen/paper methods in the early stages of a project. It’s a nice change from the keyboard and offers a fresh perspective. Already ordered the book (Presentation Zen) and can’t wait to check it out!

  2. I’ve always preferred using pen and paper to brainstorm initial ideas and write the beginnings of a paper or presentation. There is something about the pen-to-paper connection that makes ideas flow more easily for me. Maybe because it is so simple that there are less distractions to sidetrack you. And there is something scary and final about seeing words in type on a screen versus scribbled on a notepad that makes me want to start editing immediately and make them “perfect” right away — completely not the point of brainstorming — whereas I don’t feel that way at all with analog methods.

    I hope you got something out of the scribblings! And if not, you have to write a lot of crappy stuff before you get to the good stuff anyway. Oh, and Presentation Zen is excellent!

  3. It’s a great idea to do something out of the norm to get the creative juices flowing. I personally still vastly prefer the computer to get my ideas down. Pen and paper reminds me too much of all those papers I wrote by hand in high school before I got my first typewriter. To me, the computer is still very freeing — as long as I can keep the distractions at bay. I shut down everything but Word (and maybe Zune).

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