There has been so much talk about whether there is a point to writing by hand anymore, but I’m not sure the debate is focusing on the benefits of handwriting.
My youngest son, Ethan, is currently enrolled in handwriting classes to help him with his letter development. This class was recommended by an occupational therapist who watched our little left-handed boy struggle to express what was in his head on paper as quickly as he thought it. Harvey and I discussed whether he should do it as, no doubt, he would be doing lessons on a computer soon enough, but we agreed there was a definite point in knowing how to write.
I once prided myself on my beautifully formed letters when I was young. I lived to write and then (yes, back before we all had our own computer or device) that meant writing stories and diary entries and letters and notes and anything else where I thought I could express myself creatively with pen/pencil and paper. We recently unpacked boxes of my old school books and I pored over my handwritten pieces with fondness (and slight surprise as I compared how I wrote then with how I write now).
Now my handwriting is almost intelligible. It’s so bad I was able to use it as a reason for Ethan to slow down and think about how he formed each letter. How does someone who used to take as much care in crafting each letter as she did in choosing the perfect word now write like a doctor? I think a number of reasons: copious note taking which leads to quick short cuts, using shorthand for a number of years as a journalist and trying to get everything down at high speed.
Even though my notes are not neat, when interviewing people I still prefer to take notes by hand, going back over them to pick out the best quotes when I write my articles later. But I’ve recently started doing more by hand: creative writing, idea formation, mind maps (I’m still working out the finer points of my PhD and find mapping the important points helps clarify my thoughts), story scenes and more. I’ve started using all those beautiful notebooks that I’ve bought or been given over the years, but sat waiting for me in a bookcase. I’m enjoying the beautiful side of writing by hand.
There is something so special about a handwritten thank you note or card, a letter penned by a friend, or, at the pinnacle of handwritten beauty, a letter from a lover. These pieces are kept in shoe boxes and brought out periodically to revisit memories. We don’t save emails or texts in the same way, do we?
It was in this frame of mind that I came across this article on Contently: Why Writing by Hand Is Underrated. Reading this article made me see I’m not alone in seeing the benefits of letting ideas form via my hand, before writing them up on screen. While I don’t think I’d go to the lengths of writing an entire manuscript on paper first, I do see the benefits of mapping out the ideas and writing some scenes by hand first.
What do think? Do you like writing by hand and then transferring your material into electronic format, or are you completely digital and avoid pen and paper like the plague?