The long and short of it

by Scribble Monboddo

We bang on about quick note-taking and bullet journals quite a bit here, but it's time to come out of the closet; I swing the other way. Yes, I'm a long-hand prose enthusiast - and, naturally, rather particular about the medium I practise the art upon.

Why resort to such archaic methods in this day and age, you ask? Admittedly there is all sorts of software to make writing 'easier' and quicker, and a preference for some posh paper and a proper pen may seem almost perverse with all that high technology on tap. There are three good reasons, off the top of my head.

Firstly, the results justify the effort. I've worked with web content writers who can quote no end of electronic literary theory, run every word-processor known to humanity and even use artificial intelligence to fill in the gaps, but the copy they turn out often leaves me cold. I'm not the only one, either.

Secondly, the internet and all its wonders are splendid in many ways - like allowing for online retail of specialist stationery, of course - but they also offer many a distraction. I have decades of bad habits already and need no added displacement activities. When I need to write a pitch, a 'white paper', a book review or even a job application, I need to unplug myself from the cyberweb. Literally leaving the room and using different technology altogether does that.

Thirdly, and this is the really crucial advantage to my mind, it slows one down. Good sentences take time to craft, and the tactile experience of running a good pen or pencil over just the right paper helps. Like Slow Food and Slow Cities, Slow Writing feels special, authentic even, and allows us to engage in high-quality creativity rather than high-volume productivity. The blog pieces that I get the most feedback on didn't start on a keyboard, that's for sure.


The choice of medium is a personal one, and for me depends somewhat upon the task. For taking notes of reading material, old academic habit tends to steer me towards A4. For meeting notes, even if the meetings are mostly virtual nowadays, having acclimatised myself to the portable convenience of A5 I find myself going back to it more often than not; folded out flat, it's a page of A4 in landscape format, which can be doubly useful for planning presentation slides too; right now, a Rhodia soft-cover notebook is doing sterling service in this department. Then there's B5, which influencers like the great Rob de la Porte and our own Amanda Fleet have persuaded me to take a second look at; it's a good compromise between the portability of A5 and the predictability of A4, and with smooth operators like Stalogy on the scene, it's worth trying.

Finally, when the weather allows, take your writing kit outdoors. No need for power or Wi-Fi, and the ambience always add something too. Perfection.