Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paper versus iPad


As a song-writer I'm constantly looking for ideas, and when I find one, I need to be able to jot it down immediately before it fades away. So I’ve always carried a notebook around with me.

I have notebooks scattered around my living spaces, each full of songs in various stages of completion. Sometimes when I page through them, old ideas jump up off the pages and spark a series of new ideas. A song that I spent months trying to perfect unsuccessfully, can suddenly fall into place. My notebooks are full of words, waiting to be fitted snugly together like pieces of an intricate puzzle.

But the notebooks aren't just filled with words. They are filled with thought processes - words crossed out and replaced with new words; arrows linking sentences from one paragraph to another; circled words that rhyme; notes on on an elusive emotion that I'm trying to pinpoint; a melody scribbled on a hand-drawn staff.

For years I considered getting a laptop to jot down my ideas so that they will be in one place, easy to access, easy to edit, with spellcheck, encyclopaedias  and rhyming dictionaries close at hand. Then came the release of the iPad. I'm a sucker for gadgets and I thought that aside from being a lovely (if somewhat expensive) toy, this was the portable electronic notebook I've needed all my life. I took the plunge and got a friend to buy one in the States for me.

So I took my shiny new iPad to one of my usual song-writing coffee shop/restaurant/park hangouts with the intention of doing some writing. Only this time I chose my venue based on whether or not they have a WiFi connection. 

Comfortably seated on a couch at the coffee shop, an hour or two passed, along with much caffeine, & I was yet to write a single word. Every time the creative juices started to flow, the iPad beeped an email alert. And then I "quickly" checked what was happening on Twitter. Some tweeter posted a link to a very interesting article. Which led me to another article....then "ping" another email announced....DISTRACTION!

Next time I ventured out to write songs, I purposefully chose a venue without WiFi, and therefore without the temptation of email and internet to distract me. I wrote for a while and then read what I’d written. It was going nowhere, so I deleted everything and started again. I repeated the process, writing, reading, deleting. This happened a few times, and in the end all I was left with was a blank screen.  I began to miss the real pages where lines get crossed out, words are replaced, ideas linked; but nothing gets deleted.

The process is the important part.

So out came the old notebooks again. And once again I spend 20 minutes a day searching my flat for pens (there must be a place somewhere in the world where lost pens, socks and plectrums end up). Perhaps someone will develop an app that mimics/replaces a notebook. I've tried out quite a few so far without success. Until then my iPad has been relegated to a fantastic, exiting & fun toy, ebook reader, dictionary, calculator, radio, video player, iPod, news reader, Internet browser, picture frame, metronome.....but not a notebook.




P.S. this piece was written almost entirely on my iPad.