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Not Just a Notebook!

In this era of AI, during which we’ve seen the establishment of the ‘UK AI safety institute’, it’s perhaps more important now than ever that we understand where AI helps but also hinders human creativity. 

Rather remarkably, here at Middlesex University, we’ve found of late that we actually need to explain to students why it’s still vital for them to work with pen and paper, especially if they’re to keep their ‘creative muscles’ worked, practised and well developed!

We shouldn’t take for granted the considerable and in many ways unique value of the creative’s notebook! And so, we’ve collected and curated a whole set of images and testimonials to evidence to all comers (but particularly to creatives) how world-leading writers like Neil Gaiman still need to produce the initial draft of their work using a fine pen and a quality notebook!

Courtesy of the British Library’s Fantasy: Realms of Imagination exhibition

And from Middlesex University’s writers

“I usually take a hybrid response to my notetaking. I couldn't possibly do my work on my laptop alone, which I find too rigid and formal. I use a notepad for sketching my ideas and jotting down random thoughts. There's something that happens in this space that's so real and tangible and brings out creativity in a way hardware never will.”

[Sophie Knowles, academic, journalist and author]

“Writing with pen and paper allows thoughts and ideas to flow unimpeded from mind to hand to paper. No alerts. No memes. No distractions. It is creativity at its finest - personal, explorative, artistic. What's not to love?!”

[Lara Thompson, novelist and academic]

There is beauty and skill in handwriting that we often forget. The intricacy and complexity of Chinese characters, the rigid strokes of English lettering and the flowing calligraphic curves of Arabic script are a unique and artistic part of our history and culture as humanity. By not holding onto our ability to write with a pen and paper we as a species will lose a fundamental, privileged skill that at the beginning of time was afforded only to the educated and elite. Besides, once the world passes from the Anthropocene and completely into the Technocene, the AI overlords will not be able to decipher my handwritten missives via carrier pigeon.

[Amie Brochu, PhD researcher and author]

“In fantasy writing it’s perhaps an almost universal truth that magic has a cost, a balance to be repaid and, in a way, all writing is a bit like that. To get the purest joy out of our craft, we must put our energy into it, our ink, sweat and tears. I’d encourage anyone who wants to give creative writing a go, to get a notebook and pen they love and then open a doorway to another world – a realm of their making that cannot easily be undone with the click of a button.”

 [Jasmin Mulvey, PhD research and author]