The Beauty of Paper: Communicating Slowly in a Fast World

I have a thing about paper. There is nothing that will ever replace the feeling that I get when I am in possession of a new notebook. Crisp, clean pages that beg to be scribbled upon whether it’s for an assignment or a grocery list.

While getting supplies for last semester, I made a comment that I couldn’t understand how the notebooks were so inexpensively priced. The pre-teen – ok, in my defense she looked 12 – behind the counter replied “because no one uses paper anymore.” I bought three notebooks for $7 and slunk out of the bookstore like I was carrying dinosaur eggs, which was appropriate given that’s how old I felt. Throughout the semester, I was a novelty in class. While everyone was typing away on their laptops or tablets, I was scrolling in my own version of shorthand, notes in the column mingling with various and assorted geometric shapes if I was tuning out for a portion of time.

Lined Notebook with Coffee

There is nothing like a fresh sheet of paper and a good pen or pencil.

Today, everything is electronic. I will admit that I giggled when my aunt told me that she looked forward to my putting pen to paper every time I posted, even though there isn’t any statement printing involved. These days, we pound keys and touch screens and enter dates into our phone or text friends and family anytime we need to communicate. Gone are the days when you could go to the mailbox and receive a hand written letter from someone, their words scrawling across the page. Everyone had a different style of writing, not limited to 12 pt. Times New Roman font that’s today’s standard.

To me, paper = love. Paper means that someone thought enough to sit down for 5 minutes or an hour and write their thoughts, jot some doodles or recap an event to someone who couldn’t be part. It bothers me that we’re so caught up in electronics and the convenience of them that there is a whole generation of people behind me that may have never received a handwritten letter. My grandpa wrote a ton of letters to my grandma while he was deployed during WWII. After he passed, my aunt found a shoebox that contained every one of those letters, neatly organized. We never opened them – those words were not for us. I think of that box often and still get sentimental knowing that they contained thoughts from a love that lasted more than 50 years.

I know that not everyone has the time to sit down and pen an epic epistle and I mourn the former times when the mail contained more than junk fliers and bills. It also makes me sad that schools everywhere are phasing out classes that teach cursive, opting to allow students to take their notes via laptop or tablet. Again, I know that this is the way of the future, and I am beginning to sound like the crotchety old neighbor who doesn’t let the neighborhood kids play on her lawn, but I think if we lose this form of communication, slow communication, then we’re losing a piece of our past.

So next time you have a chance to leave a quick note for your spouse or kids instead of texting: do it. Pull out some paper – even if it’s scrap and the only writing utensil you have handy is a Sharpie marker – just write it. Don’t wait until you leave the house and send a text. Maybe even draw a silly little smiley face instead of using an emoji. It’ll likely take you less time than it would to find your phone and un-correct all of the autocorrected words that your phone though you should be using and it may just make someone’s day.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here hoarding beautiful journals and drug store notebooks like they’re going out of style. Maybe it’s the writer in me that nurtures this love, or the hope that we can get back to a slower life, either way, I like to think that I’m leaving a little piece of myself behind with every scribbled note or drawn out screed. Not that scholars will one day pour over my ramblings and declare my love of nonsensical and unimportant rants epic, but maybe my niece and nephews will find them one day and cherish them as I do my grandmother’s handwritten recipes or birthday cards with paragraphs of love from my parents or letters and poems from my husband. These are the things, the actual words I can hold both physically and in my heart, and there will never be an electronic program that can replace that.

Tonya Brown

I'm Tonya. Late in life college student, lover of Tigers baseball, iced coffee and cartoons made for kids but with humor geared toward adults. Married to Adam. We've been together for 20 years and married for 13. No kids, by choice, but we share our home with 2 cats and a rescued Doberman, none of whom do chores or contribute to the mortgage. We've tried. Music is my outlet, and my iTunes library is both awesome and embarrassing. I like to read, love to write and probably swear more than is legal in 48 states. I fully believe that good is the rule and laughter is the best medicine. If you can laugh, you're good. If you can laugh at yourself, even better.