The analog tools creatives still use today

My Notebooks over the past couple of years

I am fascinated by the pens, notebooks, and other analog tools artists and writers use each day. The New York Times highlights some in a recent article, “Creative Types From Manolo Blahnik to Milton Glaser on Their Favorite Writing and Drawing Instruments”:

Is the pencil over? It’s no secret we’ve turned to keyboards and touch screens to convey our thoughts, complete our work in the office and design everything from bespoke stationery to custom footwear. For most, it’s hard to recall the last time an octagonal wooden shaft rested between our fingers. But for a select set of highly creative individuals, writing instruments are still in high demand.

I’m surprised how many of the artists quoted in the article use pencils. As a lefty, I’ve never been able to use a pencil effectively. But a good pencil has its advantages.

If you want a quick rundown of how I use my notebooks, also read my recent post, “Why Writing on Paper Matters in the Digital Age.” If you’re still into digital tools, read my older post, “Evernote for Book Lovers.”

Setting goals isn’t always the best creative move

Digital Disruption - Critical Margins

If you do any creative work (and I’m assuming most Critical Margins readers do something creative) you’ll recognize what researcher Kenneth Stanley calls the “objective paradox”: According to Christie Aschwanden over at FiveThirtyEight (“Stop Trying To Be Creative”), the objective paradox is the feeling that “as soon as you create an objective, you ruin your ability to reach it.” This hampers the creative process, which requires “blind searching” and “an openness to discovering whatever arises.”

Continue reading →

In Defense of the Present Tense (from lithub.com)

It’s becoming the most popular verb tense in fiction writing, and this article by Alexander Chee at Lithub.com defends it:

As a part time professional ‘creative writing tutor’, I can say I only ever teach the present tense as one tool among many. I do not urge it on my ‘sensitive and artistic storytellers’, or any of the insensitive ones either. I teach students that verbs are the way they create a relationship for the reader to time, and function a little like the way a horizon line might in a picture. As for using it to dodge the ‘politically dodgy’, well, I can’t imagine teaching anyone that way with a straight face—and so that strikes me as something of a straw man. Or, woman, perhaps.

Continue reading →

I hope you’re reading this on your phone – I am!

Tablets and phones

About a week ago, when I wanted to try out Amazon’s new bookerly font, I went searching for my Kindle Paperwhite and realized the battery was dead; I hadn’t used it in weeks. Yet in those weeks, I had read several e-books and a plethora of articles – just not on my e-reader. I realized I did most of my reading on my phone.

Am I an outlier? Not according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“The Rise of Phone Reading” by Jennifer Maloney, @maloneyfiles). Reading on a smartphone is commonplace:

In a Nielsen survey of 2,000 people this past December, about 54% of e-book buyers said they used smartphones to read their books at least some of the time. That’s up from 24% in 2012, according to a separate study commissioned by Nielsen.

The number of people who read primarily on phones has risen to 14% in the first quarter of 2015 from 9% in 2012.

Continue reading →

Why Writing on Paper Matters in the Digital Age

Bullet Journal

Nothing can replace the experience of writing on paper, so why seek out a digital replacement?

Last month, I faced a predicament: How should I organize and manage all my projects? I’m a freelance editor; I have to organize my client work smartly, otherwise I won’t finish the work on time and get paid. I manage several projects with multiple clients, and sometimes I get overwhelmed.

I looked at my schedule and my to-do list scattered across four apps on my phone and a half-used notebook on my desk. I went through my stuff to organize it, and it dawned on me that I had a problem: I spent too much time playing with organization apps and programs in an attempt to perfect my productivity, but I didn’t spend enough time actually being productive. Continue reading →

Are Pen Names Worth It? (Episode 25)

Special note: This is our last episode for 2014, but we’ll be back in January with even better topics, so keep listening! Kevin is taking time off in November and December to figure out fatherhood. He is expecting his first son sometime in November. For now, enjoy the show!

Today, we are talking about pseudonyms. Do writers need them?
Are there ever times when we need to hide behind a pseudonym or publish anonymously? Some writers and artists make their persona part of their style, so certainly a pseudonym can work, but it’s not for everyone.


Show notes:


We’d love to hear from you! If you enjoy our show, rate us on iTunes or Stitcher and get the word out. Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter: Kevin (@criticalmargins) or Jason (@jasonanthebeast).

Writing Like a Cyborg (Episode 24)

In today’s episode, we go where no other writer has gone before: into the great unknown of artificial intelligence. We use tools that augment our lives every day, but as writers, we’ve relied on the same tools for centuries. What if we could automate or offload almost every part of the writing experience – maybe everything except writing itself? What if robots and algorithms took over the drudgery of creating, freeing up our minds for other things?


Show notes:


We’d love to hear from you! If you enjoy our show, rate us on iTunes or Stitcher and get the word out. Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter: Kevin (@criticalmargins) or Jason (@jasonanthebeast).

Episode 23: The Future of Libraries

"Dublin City Archive (Photo credit: Dublin City Public Libraries | flickr)

In today’s show, Jason and Kevin take a close look at the future of the library. Libraries aren’t fusty old buildings with mildewed books any more. Today, they serve as community centers and digital outposts designed to help people get things done and discover new skills. In fact, some libraries are getting in on the maker trend.

Continue reading →

The Late Bloomers (Episode 22)

Walt_Whitman_edit_2

What happens if you peak late in life? Today, we’re talking about those late bloomers, the writers and innovators who gain notoreity after years of hard work. Did you know Charles Bukowski wasn’t published until he was 51, or that Walt Whitman self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass at 36? Today, we seem obsessed with young genius, but we still see cases of people publishing and gaining success later in life.

Continue reading →

Digitally Composed, Consumed, and Critiqued (Episode 21)

Digital Reading

We live in a digital world, and that means writers need to develop their readership online. Luckily, the tools available to do that continue to improve.

Wattpad is one of those writerly tools, and fan fiction one of the ways writers find an audience. Today, Jason and Kevin talk about how to be digitally composed, consumed, and critiqued. We look at the phenomenon that is fan fiction. Remixing and revisiting popular works has existed for centuries: look at what Shakespeare did with his source material or today, what Disney does with old fairy tales. But fan fiction is very popular online, and even amazon gets into the whole fanfic game.

Continue reading →