Technology Is Killing Your Daily Genius

Creativity and Technology: Writing With Pen and Paper

I spent the last two weeks in Florida with my daughter while my husband, Greg finished up a project.  It is extremely challenging to continue “business as usual” when you’re ten minutes from the beach.  I spent my mornings working with many of my afternoons with my daughter spending some much needed get-a-way time together.

Creativity and Technology: Writing With Pen and Paper

The thing about getting away is that it clears your mind to think, to feel, and to decompress.  I did something I hadn’t done in a couple of years, I wrote with a paper and pen.  The glare of my iPad at the beach kept me from getting things done.  So it felt good to get back to basics as I jotted ideas and thoughts onto an old school notebook.  And I wondered how many brilliant ideas were lost due to writing technology.  Technology getting in the way.  Technology streamlining the process.  Technology helping us to do our job better, faster, and more efficient.

Remember the days when candidates applied directly for a job by looking the hiring manager in the eye or when you actually clocked in?  When’s the last time you had a good laugh with your co-workers or even your boss near or within 200 feet of the time clock?

Have you ever said at a business meeting, “Hold on, that’s a great idea I’ve got to put this into my iPhone?”

No, me neither.  And before technology, we did the best that we could when inspiration or an idea would strike.  We’d literally grab onto whatever was handy.  These days it’s smart phone tools like Evernote and Dragon Dictation.  But before that, ideas, inspiration, and invention was played out on the back of receipts, napkins, and even toilet paper.

Writing Technology vs. Writing With Pen and Paper

Are ideas, creativity, and writing  essential to your leadership and life processes?  I bet these fine folks think (and thought) so:

  • J.K. Rolling created Harry Potter on the back of a cocktail napkin.
  • The Song, Louie Louie was written on toilet paper after Berry heard a Latin beat he liked.
  • Marty Coleman, known as Napkin Dad finds his genius daily by creating beautiful art (like the one above) on a napkin.  How cool is that?
  • The Gettysburg Address was written on the back of an envelope.

Heck, the Atlanta School Board proposed this year to no longer include cursive writing as part of their educational curriculum.  The written word is no longer written.  It’s typed, pecked, and aut0-transcribed.  What’s next?  Maybe we’ll be walking around with our 3-D glasses or a blue tooth embedded behind our ears.

Writing technology is effectively killing your and my daily and creative genius.

One year or two ago, I gave up my handy dandy notebook. I thought I upgraded.  And last week sitting on the beach I realized that I was wrong.  Each day we, as humans have thousands and maybe millions of ideas.  Millions of daily genius slipping through our fingers relying on our memory or technology to map our lives.

And so last night as I began packing to travel to Vegas for the HR Demo Show, I included my Mac Book Pro, my iPad, and my handy dandy notebook.  While I won’t leave my technology at home, there’s something to be said about putting pen to paper or even pen to napkin like Marty.

How are you feeding your creative genius or better yet the creative genius of your workforce as a leader?

Posted in

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell is the founder of Workology, a digital resource that reaches more than a half million HR and workplace leaders each month and host of the Workology Podcast. Jessica lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, daughter, and an assortment of furry family members.

Reader Interactions


    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thanks Lisa. Moleskin is what I bought. Barnes and Nobles wasn’t too far from our hotel. Ryleigh likes to read so we spent some time there and I saved my creative genius.

      Have a great week!


  1. Bruce Kneuer says

    Watch out, Jessica, those iPads/tablets are coming at the culture full-force! “Every city middle, high-school student to get tablet computer” (Charlottesville, VA)

    Do you think that recess time in schools will be a “device-free” time? 🙂

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I just think that there is something to be said to craft ideas and generate thought the old fashioned way sometimes. And yes, recess should be device free.

      Thanks for the comment!


  2. Kara says

    There is something pure and worthwhile about writing by hand. When we type, we tend to interrupt our thought processes with cutting & pasting, eliminating red squiggly lines, etc. To just sit and write with a pen, though? It’s nice to do sometimes. Just yesterday, I received a handwritten letter from a relative and I dropped everything to stop and read it. It was such a lovely thing.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Amen! I never thought about cutting and pasting as a form of interruption but you are right on. Sometimes I write best when I’m just writing. No links or Control K or Control V to get in the way. Just good old fashioned thinking, doing, and creating.

      Thanks for the comment!


  3. Meghan M. Biro says

    Great thoughts here on ideation and process. Look forward to IRL time in Vegas Jessica!

    Yes, the simply joys of jotting down notes on paper. I will seek out a few cocktail napkins. We will ponder…

  4. John Jorgensen says

    Another item to add to that list in your post is that Trivial Pursuit was invented on a cocktail napkin at a bar in Canada. Great post, I need to use pen and paper more.

  5. Shima says

    Great article Jessica, soooo true, I must say. Growing up with a diary to scribble and jot down fancy ideas when the creativity ‘moments’ come, I find myself feeling awkward to do the same on my smartphone. Theres no ‘me’ moment on smartphones; only reminders of important dates, meetings, etc.

    I used to write poems, poetry, and everytime the special punching ‘line’ came, I remember myself scribbling on whatever I can get my hands on, be it paper, napkin, toilet paper, newspaper, the back of a flyer, almost everything. However, every thing feels awkward with a smartphone; it does not encourage, contribute or even assist my ‘creative’ moments 🙁

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Thanks for your comment. I think that tablets offer a more creative feel than your cell phone but I always have my moleskin on me. Now, if my moleskin would automatically translate my notes for me. I’ve been using evernote as well to record some of the more important pages on my moleskin so I can look them up on my phone should the moment arise. But honestly, I really need a CRM that does this.



Pin It on Pinterest