I was listening to a podcast a few years ago that addressed the benefits of handwriting versus typing. The interviewee (I don’t remember her name) was a graduate student who had forgotten to take her laptop to a class one day and had to resort to taking notes by hand. To her surprise, she discovered she had retained more of the lecture information than she normally did. This led to a research project to compare the benefits of the two methods of taking notes.
The memory of that podcast recently prompted a question in my mind: outside of taking notes in class, does anyone write in long hand anymore? If so, what kind of writing lends itself to longhand vs. typing. I found some interesting information online.
In a 2021 article on whenyouwrite.com, Jessica Majewski summarized several benefits which I’ve paraphrased here:
Writing by hand is more focused. There are fewer distractions than using a laptop where there are constant temptations to check email or read the latest news story. Also, there are no word processing limitations when writing by hand. The author can draw a mind map, jot side notes, or doodle images without having to open another app.
But typing has its advantages, too. Doing research is a breeze if you’re on your laptop. Just hop over to another app to search out the information you need. Copy and paste articles into your research folder and keep going. But the primary advantage to typing is speed. And sooner or later everything you write is going to have to be typed into a word processor, so unless you’re fortunate enough to have a secretary to do the transition, you’ll have to do the additional work yourself.
But how do the different methods affect creativity? Majewski makes the following case in her article:
“When you are writing by hand, your cognitive processes are more involved than when you type and this can lead to some random springs of ideas. And at the pace of handwriting, you’re not worried about your hands outpacing your brain.”
In a 2017 article on qz.com, Ephrat Livni makes the following statement:
“Brain scans during the two activities also show that forming words by hand as opposed to on a keyboard leads to increased brain activity. Scientific studies of children and adults show that wielding a pen when taking notes, rather than typing, is associated with improved long-term information retention, better thought organization, and increased ability to generate ideas.”
That all sounds good, but does anybody actually write the first draft of a novel by hand? Well, yes. Here are a few authors you may have heard of who have written one or more novels by hand:
- Joyce Carol Oates
- Stephen King
- J. K. Rowling
- Quentin Tarantino
As an experiment, I wrote this blog post in long hand. My thoughts flowed as I was writing, and there was a sense of freedom in the process that was different from typing. Fortunately, I was able to read my own handwriting when I finished, and I transferred it to a Word doc.
Well, I’m almost out of paper, so I’ll stop now. We haven’t touched on another creative method: Speech to Text. Maybe we can cover that in a later post.
So TKZers – Do you ever write in long hand? What advantages or disadvantages have you noticed using handwriting vs. typing? Has this article convinced you to give handwriting another go?