Writing In The 21st Century: Why Writing By Hand Is Still Beneficial
The irony of the fact I am typing this article on my laptop is not lost on me. With technology often comes improvements, but there is also always something lost it seems. Whenever we trade effort for convenience through the use of technology, the efficiency is gained at a cost. Digital photography has largely replaced film, but there’s just something about a black and white silver gelatin print that can’t be reproduced on the best of inkjet printers. The sound of a vinyl record may not be of the same fidelity as a CD, but it has a personality and a quality that the digital medium somehow does not capture.
It Feels Good
And so it is with writing. I don’t know many that would trade their laptop for a typewriter, but at least for the process of writing (as opposed to the product), there are many reasons to choose the pen over the keyboard. For one, there is just the visceral feeling of writing with a pen on paper, especially a fountain pen. The gliding of the nib and ink over the paper’s surface and your hand moves across the page just engages a different part of the human experience than pressing the keys on a computer.
This is also helpful when journaling for personal purposes. Writing by hand can elicit thoughts and feelings that typing on a keyboard may not evoke. Paper and pen just feels more personal and effective for getting thoughts and feelings out into the printed form.
But science has identified other benefits to writing by hand. Learning, memory, even development of fine motor skills benefit when you transcribe notes by hand. It is related to the focus needed when putting pen to paper that stimulates the reticular activating system (RAS) in the brain, according to LifeHacker. The RAS acts as a filter to all the stimuli attacking your brain, and gives priority to whatever it is you are focusing on in the moment, and writing by hand provides focus.
Writing by hand also provides freedom from the distraction of the internet. If you are trying to write on a computer that is connected to the web, you are likely getting sidetracked by incoming emails, messages, likes, comments, videos and GIFs. It’s easy for your mind to wander down the rabbit hole that is the internet. But if you can just get out a pad and paper and start writing with no distractions, you are likely to be more productive with your writing.
And many writers think that writing by hand makes you a better writer. Many famous authors including Susan Sontag and Truman Capote reportedly wrote by hand. Writing by hand tends to draw more complete sentences out of you, and more thoughtful prose.
And finally, writing by hand just seems to keep your mind a little sharper. By engaging motor skills and cognitive processes, memory and more, the Wall Street Journal says that some physicians claim writing by hand is good mental exercise as we age.