Tuesday, July 9, 2013

By hand


When I was growing Delphi Computers in the late '80s, I loved creating easel-sized monthly calendars, where projects, events and jobs were entered in different primary colors.  The calendar sat in the hallway between the shop and the operations manager's workspace.  It allowed everyone in the company to understand all the work that Delphi was doing at a high level and for the team to support one another.

Since those days, I have been a hybrid person, working both by hand and with technology.  It doesn't matter that I keep my work calendar in the cloud on Outlook: though I gave up the Filofax that I used for years, I still maintain a New Yorker desk calendar, . And while I blog on the internet, I still write by hand in a personal journal, often using pens of different primary colors.  My photographs end up here or on Facebook, but the work in the garden and on the house is done by hand. I don't write letters anymore by hand, but I do still use postcards and write thank you notes.

I got to thinking about this because I was asked in a business meeting yesterday why I take notes on paper rather than on the computer.  It took me awhile to think through the answer.  The main reason is that I have always paid better attention when I am note taking. Taking notes is a long-standing practice, derived from doing a great deal of reading while working on two degrees in literature.  Then, too, I seem to feel that use of a computer or reading email on one's smartphone in the middle of a meeting indicates that one is not really paying attention.

The computer's convenience and ease of Internet access have led to fractured attention spans for most of us.  It's certainly caused me to rethink how I present to large audiences.  To un-fracture my own attention, I go back to working by hand.

If you took a look, you would find that I had drawn out the architecture of the ASA website on easel sized paper before we started writing copy or looking at competitors' sites.  It was the same with the first edition of Advice From A Risk Detective:  each chapter was blocked out in color and modified as I went, by hand.

When I visit museums, I'm always looking for the drawings that preceded the paintings to see and trace how things became even clearer over time.  My favorite artists for this type of look are Van Gogh, Cezanne and, of course, Michelangelo.

As I start on my third book, there's more drawing going on -- by hand, and with note-taking, to shape the two voices of the book, at least as I envision it right now.  One voice is that of the beleaguered executive who is asked to make critical decisions every day.  The other voice, for lack of a better term right now, is that of the interlocutor or master of ceremonies, a role that requires storytelling, gathered data, and at least two choices offered for each situation that presents itself to the executive.

My time online has already decreased as I go back to working by hand.

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