Thinking with paper

When I’m trying to figure out what I think, to unravel something new, I use paper.

Email makes you think like email. Pick some people and tell them something. But maybe I don’t need to tell anyone anything. Maybe I need to make a to-do list, or write up a list of questions and add them to a meeting agenda.

Word makes you think like Word. Make a document, 8.5 x 11. It probably needs a title, a heading, paragraphs laid out one after the other. Fine, maybe. But what if drawing a picture would do me better?

Neither let you start in the middle of the page. Or work upside down. Or backwards. They don’t easily accommodate doodles, sketches, a scratchpad for the thinking that’s not fully baked yet.

I’m using paper as a metaphor here. It could be a whiteboard. A sandy beach and a stick. The iOS app Drafts is like paper, in a way: it lets you capture words before you have to decide what they’re for or where they’re going. It’s where I started this post.

Sometimes I’m intentional about how I use the paper, other times it’s just a scribbly mess. But it’s always a good place to start when I don’t know what I think. Hooray for paper.

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