Thinking About Thinking


I’m still thinking about where people think and how different tools influence the type of thinking you get. BTW, here’s a shot of my desk from this morning. My latest experiment is writing to people (by hand!!!) asking the question: “where and when do you do your best thinking?”

It will be interesting to see whether the form of the communication (email, handwritten letter, blog post etc) influences the answers in any way.

I have been talking about the rise of analogue technology (fountain pens, wet film photography, vinyl records etc) as a counter-trend to digital technology for some time and I even acquired a fountain pen and some personal stationary recently.

Of course this all seemed like a really good idea until I started to physically write anything. My hand almost fell off after the first five letters. It seems my body has physically adapted to typing on a keyboard rather than scribbling with a pen.

If anyone would like to post a comment to the question above please do so…or you could always send me a handwritten note of course!

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8 Responses to Thinking About Thinking

  1. Chris Knowles says:

    Could it be that using analogue technology actually shows more emotional attachment to the end product and the recipient? That the medium you use to communicate says something about how you feel about a situation?

    My father-in-law did a lot of work for Rupert Murdoch. A few months after my wife wrote to him to inform him of her dad’s death he wrote back a handwritten letter expressing his condolences. My mother-in-law still has it. I doubt that she would have printed off and kept an email.

    And to answer your question, almost every day I have a timeout. I leave the office and spend 20 minutes or so in the local cafe, scribbling and doing my thinking over a mug of flat white. I still find that pen and paper is the best way to organise my thoughts.

  2. Richard says:

    Great comment! Thanks.


  3. Just in via email…

    William – when I’m stressed or under pressure – BOOM; idea to solve issue. Geographically there seems to be little consistency.

    Sangeeta – when I’m not thinking about the problem i.e. When she’s shopping, walking or exercising.

  4. .calvin says:

    Re handwriting:
    For a couple of years in high school I rebelled by only writing in upper case.
    Needless to say, my handwriting suffered big time, and nowadays I have got 3/4 different styles depending on the mood (I like to think of it as a forensic calligraphist’s worse nightmare). Then, I discovered the electric typewriter and there was no going back. Even today, I try to keep pens away from my (too-large for the average pen) hands. Not my fault.

    Re thinking locations:
    More than locations, I play with something I read a while back and seems to work (at least for me and those around me being used by my wicked mind). I read this article on surviving catastrophes, and those who did, had, in effect, either a thought through escape plan or just read the exit instructions.
    I matched that to my girlfriend’s sudden skill of being able to recognise every single Audi A4 Avant on the road once we bought one, but still unable to separate a pick-up from a bunch of Mercedes.

    Apparently, some “buffer memory” works as a spring to conclusions and solutions, so I just make myself aware of something and leave it to roast.

    Being a little selfish, I extend my thinking tentacles to my nearest environment, sowing the seeds into my friends and family minds, so if they come across anything related with the particular topic, it will trigger their attention, think of it, and tell me. I call them my UHG (Unaware Human Google”.

    Manipulator or human enhancer? 10 brains at 10% capacity think better than one at 100%. Distributed computing applied to human brainpower. No much success so far, so perhaps I need new friends.


  5. Valentina says:

    Think about photography. When I used to take photos with my old traditional Nikon I would pay endless care to the composition and think 300 times before pressing the button. Every photo was a cost, after all. But I loved the result and I developed a really strong bond with every image. Now I have a digital camera and sure I can take all the pictures I want and even do a lot of fascinating stuff with photoshop. But the feeling is not the same as if something is missing. I miss scarcity (see Barry Schwartz’s paradox of choice). Handwriting is scarcity: it’s phisically demanding, you can’t cut /copy & paste, you have only one copy… I think your brain reacts in a certain way to this awareness…

  6. Dave Hayes says:

    Postcards do it for me. Have for years, and still do, and recipients often keep them, and, perhaps more importantly, remember them. When writing them in a public place, it’s always funny the comments I receive – general shock, because, usually, my laptop is open and my blackjack is buzzing away happily moving communication.

    I like the very personal feel of writing with my hand. typing seems like a learned skill still, where writing seems to flow out of the body more.

    I like the physical word count restrictions inherent in a post card – challenging and liberating at the same time.


  7. Thomas James says:

    When it comes to creativity the only constant is the time of day: from about 2200 to 0100 hours the next day I can write better, think better, and arrive at solutions more effectively.

    As to the media: pen/pencil and mindmaps for initial ideas then word processing for writing and assembly.

  8. Phil Mead says:

    I do most of my cogitating in the very early morning sitting outside the house on the garden bench, usually before dawn breaks. I usually have my spiral block notepad with me to write down random and patterned thoughts. As it’s dark at that time I can hardly see my scrawly handwriting (it pains me to do so) which was never elegant anyway, even before the advent of the PC. I do, though, have two beautiful Waterman pens which make me feel better about myself when I sign papers or cheques as I have mastered my signature better than any other form of handwriting.

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