Computer Versus Notebook

Flash Drive or Pen…?


Do you prefer to use a computer for your writing or a notebook?  I think that there are pros and cons to using a computer and there are pros and cons to using a notebook.  However, no matter what the pros are or what the cons are, people will most likely choose one certain one over the other all the time.

A computer has its advantages.  Nine out of ten people type faster than they write, so typing would be an advantage over hand writing.  Plus, there’s spell-check.  If you write on the computer, the computer will tell you whether you’re right or wrong–of course, the computer is sometimes wrong, so you have to watch out.  If you use the computer, you can check to see how many words you have written and you can see how long it is.  I’ll use myself as an example.  A finished manuscript is typed and double-spaced (most of the time).  During my free time in school, I wrote in a notebook.  By the end of the semester, I had filled up an entire one-subject notebook of a story.  When I typed it up on the computer, the manuscript was less than ten pages.  Of course, the story was not nearly complete, but my point is that if you use a computer, you know exactly the length of your novel.

Now there are disadvantages to using the computer.  It’s one word: Internet.  Yes, if you need to research something on Google, then that’s okay.  However, for most people, when they log onto the internet, they stay on the internet for a good few hours.  They forget what they’re doing and then when their laptop dies or they need to leave to go to work or whatever, they remember, “Oh, yeah.  I was supposed to be writing.” Of course, there is nothing that they can do about it.  They shut down, go do whatever it is that life needs them to do and do they get back to the story?  Eventually, but not likely that same day.  There is also the disadvantage of the computer crashing or getting a virus (which, I would say is technically the same thing).  Once that happens, you’re screwed.  You may be able to get rid of the virus, but all your documents are now infected.  That is, if they even made it through the whole crashing process.  You might have lost them forever.  And yes, that is why we have flash drives these days.  You pop it into the computer, save everything onto that and (God forbid) your computer dies tragically you still have all your crap.  It’s magic!  It’s saved!  However, a flash drive is only good for you if you actually have it.

Let me tell you this story from a couple of semesters ago…I was at school.  My sister and I arrived in the early morning, we went to our classes, and then we were gone by, I think, noon.  Maybe later, I don’t know, but the time is irrelevant.  The time you need to know is that at seven o’clock at night, yes 7:00 PM, I decide to write.  I turn on my laptop, I get my flash drive.  Except I don’t.  I look in my bag, all the drawers in my desk, in my room, everything.  No flash drive.  Then it hits me: I used my flash drive at school.  Guess where I left it?  That’s right; I left it connected to one of the school computers in the library.  I was completely panicked.  I was distraught.  I had convinced myself that I was never ever going to see my flash drive again.  I thought to myself, “Well, that’s it!  All those stories…all that hard work…wasted!  I am never going to write again!” No, seriously, I vowed that I was never going to write again if I didn’t get my flash drive back…I’m a very sensitive person.  Anyway, I run up to my bedroom, probably crying I don’t really remember, and I tell my sister everything that happened.  Well, thank the lord that my school library added a new feature.  We can IM the librarians now…if the library is open and someone is on duty, that is.  Lucky for me, there was a librarian online.  My sister spoke with her and apparently a very nice man found it and turned it in to the lost and found.  The next day, we went to school to the Lost and Found and I got my flash drive back.  I don’t know who that student was who returned my flash drive, but I would give him a big bear hug if I ever found out.

So, computers have advantages and disadvantages…more advantages than the disadvantages.  But notebooks also have their own advantages and disadvantages:

Hand writing may be slower, but think of it as a first-first draft.  If you hand write and then type it (believe me because I’ve done it plenty of times before) as you type you’ll be editing.  You will notice spelling, grammar, and even sentence structure mistakes.  As you type, you will fix these mistakes so it’s as though you’re getting a whole draft edited as you format it.  Another advantage: they are portable.  As long as you have a pen that works with you, then you can write wherever you go.  Sure, laptops are portable, but then you have to lug around  a heavy laptop, a flash drive (if you need one) and the cord…remember, laptops die.  Notebooks don’t.

How are notebooks not a good idea?  Smudging.  I guess it depends on the type of pen you use, but when I write, my arm tends to smudge all the previous words I wrote.  And I’m right-handed.  The other problem would be messiness.  It depends on you and your hand writing and it’s not like it’s your fault if you have crappy hand writing or not, but still.  I hand write fast and my hand writing isn’t the best, to begin with.  When I try to re-read over the things I wrote, I get stuck every once in a while trying to read my own writing.  People may not see this one as a big deal, but to me it is.  Once you start writing in a notebook and then you take it somewhere with you to write in your spare time (like I do when I go to school), you need to make sure that you’ll have enough paper left in the notebook to last you through the day.  The majority of one-subject notebooks only have 70 pages.  If you use them double-sided (which I think everyone should) then you technically have 140 pages.  However, it also depends on how big you write…I write like a giant, so I don’t always get the most words down on one sheet.  The point is a computer has an unlimited amount of pages, whereas notebooks don’t.

And there you have it.  I’m sure that there are more pros and cons to both computers and notebooks, but those were the ones that I could come up with.  I think that it depends on how often you write, where you write, how you write, etc., should depend on what you use.  Then again, you need to use something that you’re comfortable with.  Me?  I couldn’t tell you which I prefer.  I use the computer the majority of the time.  That’s mostly because I have an unlimited amount of paper, plus the words get down faster.  However, you will sometimes catch me writing in a notebook.  I need a notebook to write in whenever I can’t get to a computer and it makes me feel relaxed.  It’s quieter because I don’t have the typing noise in the background as I think and try to come up with something to write next…although I quite like the typing noise. I usually listen to music when I write whether I am on the computer or using a notebook, so I’m not really making much sense right now, but that’s just how I work.

Which do you use?

23 thoughts on “Computer Versus Notebook

  1. I use a mixture of them both. I have a new notebook on the go for each new project. I scribble notes and can remind myself of plot details, characterisation or things I need from the shops 🙂

    When I write I use my laptop. At the end of every chapter I back up to two different flash drives. Paranoia is a good thing. I started writing with a type writer when I was about 16, things have progressed down the years, but I love tapping away at the keys.

    • Right, I usually use the notebook for outlining or something and then I use the computer for the actual writing. Although, there have been a few times where I have hand-written about half a novel due to being in class…clearly not paying attention to the class, lol.

      I have two flash drives, but I only use one. I’m really OCD so I need to fill up one before I start using the other. But paranoia is very good!

  2. Usually I’ll choose the computer, because I write faster when I type then when writing longhand. But if I’m away from home, I’ll use a notebook, even though I have a very small, light netbook I could use. I just prefer a notebook when I write in cafés or in trains.
    I also find that for diary-style writing, longhand is more comfortable for me. 🙂

    • My sister and I go to Barnes & Noble a lot to write. It has a Starbucks inside, so we nuts…well, I try to go nuts, she stops me. Anyway, we go there a lot to just sit for a few hours and write in the peaceful, quiet environment. We used to both bring our notebooks, which is why I have so many half-written in notebooks because every time we went, I would want to start a whole new idea. However, when I got my laptop, we both started bringing our laptops and I have to say that we get a whole lot more done just because the typing is faster.

        • Yes, it’s terrible, lol. Especially since when you think of a new idea, you need to stop to think about it. Then you look back down at the paper and realize that wasn’t the idea you were currently writing.

    • Join the club! My handwriting is terrible, and it’s true that every once in a while I have no idea what I just wrote, but regardless I hand write every once in a while, anyway.

  3. Ahhh, I see…when you say “Notebook”, you mean one of those spiral-bound things with lined pages. For some reason, I thought you meant “Notebook” as in “A very small, very basic laptop.”

    Since my handwriting is atrocious, and my typing speed has ALWAYS been better than my hand-writing, I absolutely prefer something with a keyboard, be it computer, type writer, or word processor! 😀 (If it helps, neither type writers or word processors have access to the Internet, so there’s always that if you need something not so distracting. OTOH, everything you type is on real paper. I don’t know if you can save it to USB or not.)

    • I actually surprisingly don’t get distracted by the internet that much. If I do, it’s because I haven’t started writing yet and I probably won’t ever start that day. But once I get going, I go. The only time I have ever gone onto the internet while writing was to research something or look up names or whatever.

  4. A word about laptops: I use a Netbook. It’s very small, very light, and very portable. And unless you plan on writing on it for several hours, the battery life is pretty good. (It’s also fairly easy to find a plug in just about any library or wherever it is you write. 🙂 )

    As for saving stuff, I use both Dropbox and Google Docs; they both save everything to their servers on the Internet. I can access my files from ANY computer, and I don’t have to worry about remembering (or forgettting) a USB stick. (Though I still have one tucked away in the case of my Netbook just in case. 😉 )

    But as for taking notes in class, I’d probably go with a regular, spiral-bound notebook. Then again, I haven’t taken a real class in about a decade, long before laptops were all the rage. lol

    If I’m seriously into writing a story, I just plain ignore the Internet the same as I ignore commercials. I close my browser, and don’t open it again until I need to find something, or just plain need a break.

    My answer to you: Use whatever you feel comfortable with. There’s no right or wrong answer to this. Just keep in mind that laptops are getting more and more advanced all the time; I’m sure the time is coming when they won’t weigh hardly anything at all! 😀

    • I meant to write this in my last comment to you: I have never seen a type writer. The only time I’ve actually seen them were in movies, but never in real life.

      Anyway, my oldest sister just got a mini laptop (I don’t call them by their actual names, I call them mini laptops). And I haven’t fooled around with it, yet, but it looks pretty nice and adorable. I have thought of getting one just so that could be like my “working” laptop for stories and such and my big laptop (her name is Lucy) will be for websites, school, etc. Although, I just got Lucy almost a year ago, so I’m not really looking to buy a mini Lucy right now since she’s so young.

      And I think I would be paranoid about saving things on the internet. I’ve never heard of anything you just said, so clearly I don’t know anything about it, but I would just be worried about hackers and such. I carry my flash drive around with me EVERYWHERE. I’ll go to work and I’ll still have it with me even though I know that I will not be near a computer and if I was, I would not be using it for that.

      It is true to use whatever you’re comfortable with. Personally, I’m comfortable with either or and I use both semi-often, but mostly it’s the laptop. That usually wins out 8 times out of ten.

      • Dropbox and Google docs are pretty safe, actually; I’ve never had a problem with either. 🙂 I suggested these mainly because of your comment about how you lost your USB stick once, and how it sent you into a panic.

        You can read up on the safety features for both of those if you want. The only way someone could get into your Google docs (or Google ‘play’, as they call it now), is if you gave someone your login information for your Gmail.

        If you want to see a ‘real’ typewriter, I suggest going to antique and thrift stores. XD There always seems to be at least one ancient one lurking around. But honestly, I wouldn’t recommend a real typewriter; there’s a reason things have advanced like they have. lol Plus, it may be hard to find typewriter ribbon and such in this day and age. But I think they still make just plain word processors. (I could be wrong about that though.)

        The minis (usually called Netbooks or even Notebook Laptops) you are talking about are all you really need for school work and websites. They can browse and write just the same as a regular laptop; they just don’t have as much storage space. That being said, I haven’t found this to be a huge deal; Open Office and Scrivener (two of my favorite pieces of writing software) seem to work really well on it, as do web browsers, Dropbox, and all the rest.

        I know your nervous about saving stuff to the web, but it’s just as safe as using a USB stick. 🙂 It also means not having to keep up with your USB every single place you go.

        That being said….it’s GOOD to be paranoid when it comes to losing stuff. When I was doing Nano 2011, I saved my story to all three: Dropbox on my computer, Google Docs, AND a USB stick. Just in case any one or more of those failed, I’d be sure to have a backup. 🙂

        • Back-ups all always good! And I don’t have any of those writing softwares. I’ve looked at them, but I haven’t downladed any. Actually, that’s a lie. My ister downloaded one once, but I forget what it’s called. I’ve never used it. I always just use the Microsoft Word Starter.

          • Open office is awesome! 😀 It’s open-source software (meaning it’s free and anyone can use it.) It’s comparable to the full version of Word, in every way. 🙂

            Scrivener is something I found out about when I did NaNoWriMo 2011. Since I completed the goal of 50,000 words, I got to get it at half-price. It has a lot of neat things, like character profile pages and the like. Things really useful for writing a story. I love it! But I wouldn’t have gotten it for full price, just because I can’t afford to spend $40 on some writing software. The half-off coupon was just too much to resist for an aspiring novelist. 🙂

            • I heard of it from NaNo, but because of the price, I didn’t get it. I never buy anything. The only reason I have that writing software my sister got was because it was free.

              • Same here; I’m super-cheap when it comes to things like this. That’s why I used OpenOffice for so long…because it’s free. 🙂

                I went ahead and got Scrivener because I am just so incredibly scatterbrained that I really do NEED it if I’m going to get ANYWHERE in my story-writing! lol

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