March 15, 2016

5 Reasons to Start Writing by Hand

How often are you writing by hand? Do you find yourself typing everything, from text messages and to-do lists, to blog posts?

writing by hand

If so, you should probably go out and buy a notebook today. And here are some reasons why:

1. Writing by hand gives us the feeling that we are still drafting.

Taking a pen to paper feels more like a sketch than typing does. By being hand-written, whatever you’re working on is inherently unfinished. It may seem counter-intuitive, since writing by hand is physically more permanent than digital words on a screen, but most of us have been trained for the last two decades that handwriting is rough. Since our computers are used primarily for sharing finished products, once our work is digital, it feels more completed. A computer is the venue for a final product, where polished ideas live. If your idea is put into the digital realm prematurely, you may not be inclined to edit it like you would in a notebook. Because it looks finished on the screen, it might not be given the time to be shaped, sculpted into something more advanced.

“Even a scrap of paper and a stub of a pencil are more preferable for philosophizing than typing the same words down, since writing a word out, letter by letter, is a more self-conscious process and one more likely to inspire further revisions and elaborations of that thought.”

2. Writing by hand evokes a rawness, a humanness, that is hard to achieve with typing.

“It’s not just a question of writing a letter: it also involves drawing, acquiring a sense of harmony and balance, with rounded forms. There is an element of dancing when we write, a melody in the message, which adds emotion to the text. After all, that’s why emoticons were invented, to restore a little emotion to text messages.”

Writing by hand is a very personal thing. The pen becomes, in essence, an extension of yourself. If you are trying to empathize, or reveal yourself in a very human way to your readership, writing by hand might give you the voice, the personality you might lose when typing. There is a sense of formality involved with typing, which could be a hinderance to writing something personable. While writing by hand, you might come across a thought that is too informal for typing, but might be the most relatable take on what you’re writing.

Writing by hand is laborious, and that is why typewriters were invented. But I believe that the labor has a virtue, because of its very physicality. For one thing it involves flesh, blood and the thingness of pen and paper, those anchors that remind us that, however thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.”

3. Writing by hand is limitless.

It is structureless. Writing on a computer is limited by its interface—spacing, font, left-to-right, top-to-bottom. But in a notebook, preferably an unlined notebook, you are free to do what you like. You can write in spirals, landscape, draw little graphs or doodles in the corner, releasing the creativity that a computer, an application, limits.

In fact, we learned that the FitBit had originally started out as a doodle in the corner of a sheet of paper a designer was brainstorming with.


4. A piece of paper does not have push notifications.

Overall, a piece of paper is less distracting than a computer. You can not get a text or email to your piece of paper. There is no refilled Two Dots life in your notebook.

Your notebook is a place to be loose, free, but focused. It is a place to regurgitate your creative mind, let go, and let it spill out.

Zach Sims, the co-founder of Codecademy, encourages his employees to leave the laptop outside during meetings. He says:

“Paper forces you to be present with the people in the room and your thoughts. When people aren’t messing around, they’re more engaged and finish faster.”

5. Writing by hand helps foster memory.

A study at the University of Washington showed that:

“…printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns — and each results in a distinct end product. When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas. And brain imaging in the oldest subjects suggested that the connection between writing and idea generation went even further. When these children were asked to come up with ideas for a composition, the ones with better handwriting exhibited greater neural activation in areas associated with working memory — and increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks.”

So, you remember things better when you write them down. Think back to taking notes in college. Did you do it by hand, or did you have a laptop? How engaged were you with what you were typing or writing down?

We’re not saying everything should be written by hand. Because, well, most people’s handwriting is not legible. However, there is a time and a place for handwriting, when it’s more beneficial than typing, and we encourage you to try it out.