December 09, 2012, 3:59 PM — When I first got my iPad, I immediately changed the email signature to read, "Lovingly handcrafted just for you by Jason Snell." I did it to remove Apple's baked-in self-promotion from every email I sent, but in hindsight I think there's something to the idea that words that spring from an iPad are not necessarily the same words that would come from other devices.
As anyone who has read my liveblog coverage of Apple press events may have guessed, I'm an extremely fast typist. On a physical keyboard, I can go as fast as 120 words per minute. My typing speed is no constraint on my brain. If I can think it, I can get it down--fast.
But I'm starting to suspect that my writing can change radically just by changing the method I use to get those words out of my head.
I've always had terrible handwriting, so once I got my hands on a computer and printer, all of my writing (aside from a few essay exams in school) has involved clacking away at a keyboard.
My first semester of grad school, I ended up spending two weeks away from my computer keyboard thanks to a delightful double-whammy of strep throat and mononucleosis. After a while, I got so bored that I decided to write with a pen on paper. It was all I had.
The funny thing is, I think about that experience to this day. Writing with pen and paper felt appreciably different from typing. My mind would try to race ahead, but my pen could only go so fast. I ended up considering every sentence, every word choice, with greater care simply because I couldn't dash it out and move ahead. It was some of the best writing I'd done up to that time, and yet when I returned to school I immediately returned to my keyboard and never took up a pen again. Typing was just faster and easier.
Fast forward more than twenty years, to a few months ago. I had been approached by Marco Arment to write a story for his new venture, The Magazine. My deadline was at the end of a business trip, so I figured I'd find time to write on the plane or at the hotel. But as I packed for the trip, I decided to travel light and leave my laptop at home.
I only had my (full-sized) iPad, but I don't like missing deadlines. So I wrote that story by tapping letter after letter on the iPad's onscreen keyboard in Nebulous Notes, lovingly handcrafting (to steal the phrasing of my email signature) each sentence. And as I sat there on the plane, tapping against the iPad's onscreen keyboard, I was reminded of that experience of writing longhand so many years ago.