Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Does Anybody Really Write Anymore?

By hand, anyway.

In the world of smart phones, laptops, keyboards, texting, and tablets, it feels like we're writing less and less by hand these days. It's no wonder most of us experience handwriting degeneration after elementary school. My 10 year old still gets graded on handwriting, although it seems many schools have done away with teaching cursive.

Doctors aren't the only ones with horrible handwriting - which I attribute to them being short on time. Time is money, and doctors aren't paid to write 'scripts. They're paid to see people. With technology changing how we communicate, is handwriting even relevant?

When was the last time you either received or wrote a handwritten letter? Billions of emails are sent every day, and even more billions of texts are exchanged also. So what's the point of handwriting?

For those who have followed me over from my longtime other blog (The Phoenix), you all know how I love science and studies. Well, this study shows that handwriting - actually writing something by hand - has cognitive benefits you can't get while clacking away on any keyboard.

Typing and handwriting do have to areas in common: visual and motor. Although I will argue handwriting takes far more fine motor skills. But handwriting also involves extra cognitive work. Your brain has to remember how to make all the certain shapes and such to make each letter.

Also, handwriting teaches you how to focus, since you're just focusing on putting the tip of the writing instrument to paper to create the letters. Using a computer is faster, but you're going from keyboard to monitor/screen constantly. The brain isn't as "fired up" during the use of a keyboard compared to writing by hand. It takes more mental effort to use a pen.

Give it a try. Go pick up a pen and some paper and write a thoughful letter to someone you care about. It takes WAY longer, and heck, you might even feel a little tired both physically and mentally. Write a love note. Apologize to someone you've wronged in the past. Whatever. Just take your time, let your hand form each letter and word carefully. Put some effort into it.

Your brain, and your recipient, will thank you for it!

24 comments:

T. S. Bazelli said...

If I need to focus, I will write out by hand. There's something soothing about the feel of pen or pencil on paper. It's less distraction, and strain on the eyes as the computer. I do hate having to type it all up after though. LOL

Tiyana, aka "Yoyo" said...

It really is nice to do things away from the computer at times. Somehow it does affect the way you think. Like you say, it takes more thought when writing in pen or some permanent medium because, well, it's permanent! (Unless you decide to just chuck it all later and start over, of course.)

When I'm drafting drawings for school we use what's called architectural letting. You write in all caps and it tends to be more elongated than usual handwriting. You also use a straightedge to draw all vertical lines. (Most of the examples on Google Images aren't really that "architectural," actually; it's not supposed to be cutesy and stuff.)

Our teacher used to have us submit entire pages written in this style every class day at like a 1/4in. height, and it sucked at first but eventually it was kind of relaxing. You get a kind of zen high trying to make every letter perfect yet in your own style. Ask any architect that values the quality of hand lettering and drafting about the process and they just get all excited, lol. (I have an instructor who actually insists that "computers kill the creative process," and I wonder how much truth there is to this. There seems to be a disconnect between the older and younger generations in this regard.)

Tiyana, aka "Yoyo" said...

Sorry, I meant "architectural lettering."

Jay Noel said...

T.S.: It's always good to slow down a little and let the brain do its thing.

Tiyana: I think the computer definitely has changed the game. It's faster and more precise innately, but I think slowing down and doing it by hand does force you to focus, and in the end be more creative.

Laura Eno said...

I write all my stories out longhand first, before transferring them to the computer. My handwriting isn't pretty enough for a letter though. :)

Jenna Howard said...

When I plot (key word...when) it's by hand. I carry around my little notebook and flower pen in my purse and write it out by hand because it gives my brain time to think.

Of course I have to use said pen and notebook. That would probably help.

Jay Noel said...

Laura: You write all of it by hand? Holy cow, that must take forever.

Jenna: Flower pen? How come that doesn't surprise me?

Laura Eno said...

Yep, but slower allows me to edit as I go. (That's what works for me, not the write as fast as you can theory). I do it one chapter at a time, then edit again as I transfer to the computer.

Jay Noel said...

That's really a good idea. You force yourself to make every word count...and then edit.

Mr. Shife said...

I actually just wrote a letter to my Aunt but she is 94 and is not on the computer. It does take a lot longer and I usually end up making a bunch of errors that I have to cross out because I write in pen. Now if I had to write in cursive it would take forever. The only thing I write in cursive anymore is my name on checks.

Jay Noel said...

I'm the same way. Many times I'll start writing in cursive, but end up printing. Makes me look schizophrenic.

h3roicwrit3r said...

Hmmm...I wonder if there is a happy medium, Jay?

For example, maybe there are electronic notepads that a writer can transcribe their writing to a computer? This would be purely blissful to find or discover something like this.

Have you seen anything like this before?

- E.J. Apostrophe

the weirdgirl said...

When I'm writing creatively, especially poetry, I almost always start off by handwriting in cursive first. Sometimes if I'm stuck I just start by writing out the alphabet, then random words, and next thing I know I'm writing lines. Eventually I have to switch over to the computer, though, because while the handwriting does trigger certain things in my brain, seeing something in print also triggers other editing capacities. If that makes sense.

Jay Noel said...

I had to read that three times...but it does make sense. Just seeing the letters/words gets the creative mind going.

Maybe there's something kinetic involved in there too. The physicality of writing.

Jay Noel said...

I had to read that a couple times, WG, but I understand what you're saying. Just seeing the words can get the creative flow going.

Maybe it's a word-association thingy goin' on.

angel, jr. said...

I learn more by handwriting. When I want to have something ingrained in my head, I will hand write it. During lectures, I always take notes, by hand, this way I really learn the material. It seems to help me to memorize it.

One of my friends told me that she rarely reads her email. If I want to say hello, she has asked me to send a hand written note. She says she still loves going to the mailbox and getting personal mail.

cube said...

Intersting subject. I keep a written journal of daily stuff (more personal than my blog), but it can be, understandably, quite messy. If I could find what h3roicwrit3r commented about, I'd be very happy.

Jay Noel said...

Angel, I think that's a good way to be - expect your friends to take the time to write something. I am inspired to write my loved ones instead of texting.

Cube, I needs me an iPad. Maybe Obama will buy me one.

amauryons said...

What to say about this article. I am really very very touched by it. Its truly brilliant sharing. Very inspiring.

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