The last time I wrote billboards, I started in the usual place (big sketch pad, sharp pencil, back porch). Normally, I’d invest a day scribbling all over a half-dozen notebook pages before refining anything.

But by lunchtime, I found myself at my PC.

Editing. Refining. Nudging sample headlines on sample billboard comps a few pixels to the left.

In other words, fiddling.


the Palomino Blackwing

Smooth and sensual, the Blackwing 602 is sex with an eraser attached.

You don’t see the big picture when you’re fiddling.

More proof; I was recently working on a magazine pitch; the story revolved around a police accountability activist, but the pitch was falling flat.

The real story finally emerged, but only after I stopped trying to dictate it to myself and worked it out on paper (the activist is the framework for the story, which is really about the justice system’s willingness to sometimes compound a mistake rather than admit error [duh]).

Simply put, when you’re mucking about with details, you’re not creating big ideas, which I assume are still the goal (though the success of Buzzfeed makes me wonder).

The Power of Paper

Here’s a thought: Computers are about execution, not conception.

It’s possible I’m wrong.

The generation that writes novels on smartphones and elevated selfies to an art form may create better on a blank screen than a blank piece of paper.

But I doubt it.

So do yourself a favor. Get a notebook or sketch pad (make sure it’s unlined, because lines are precisely the thing you’re trying to avoid).

Buy a great writing implement (I’m sold on the Blackwing pencils, which are expensive but draw like the right hand of God).

Doodle. Sketch. Outline. Reach. Write something manifestly stupid.

Just get as far away from your PC as possible.

Keep writing, Tom Chandler.