The downside of writing on paper first is making backups. Not just of the draft but all the notes. Flipping a notebook front to back on a copying machine and hoping the cheap translucent paper (which, rightfully, makes you care less about the draft) doesn’t obscure the front of the sheet with bleed-through from the back. That becomes my Backup Prime, which I can duplicate easily by stacking it in the copy machine feeder. Then I have two or more piles of paper to store separately in case of puddles, fire, or falling into a shredder.
Since I don’t own a netbook or a digital pad, pen and paper are far easier to tote and boot than any computer and don’t distract me–they are a very singular but flexible toolset, good for draft text and notes and diagrams on the fly, along with marginalia and illustrations and effects. The only structure required is writing draft text on the lines to make rereading easier. If I had a netbook, I might use it, but trey’re so damn tiny and I like to see progress across a page. If anyone made a reliable electronic notepad for heavy use, it would go at the top of my list. I don’t even need handwriting recognition or, while it would be nice in the long term, I’d be happy if the tool just captured a “page” as a snapshot, similar to a scan, then I could return later to help it figure out what I typed and turn it into text.
I could use a scanner, but even a fast scanner takes twice as long as a copy machine, only because of the extra pre and post scan steps–although there’s probably some way to set up the big copier/scanner at work to take a sheaf of paper, scan it and save automatically. But then my employer might, if they so chose for whatever crazy reason, have legal rights to a portion of my work. Not worth the hassle of considering it (deterrence, I suppose, being the real purpose of such policies, followed by owning a piece of patents filed by employees who make something magical on the company dime.)
Living in a first world of highly structured and productized technology solutions makes us forget the value of starting with a mess and then capturing that mess and working it into something more structured for sharing (or just a different mess). I’ve lived with computers since I was a kid and my Dad hauled in one of the first generation IBM PC’s home for our dining room table. I’m not enamored with computers anymore–my honeymoon with the iPad lasted about a day, for all its wonder. (I don’t own an iPad; my employer builds products for them, among other platforms, and we have a couple at the office.) Give me smart hand appliances and tools that take everyday activities long practiced and do something special with the input, instead.