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Pick a pen - any pen

The benefits of writing by hand

In answer to the question, “Is it better to write by hand or on a keyboard?” I always say with a throw-away hand, “Oh, it really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re writing!”


I hold with this, I really do, because overcoming any obstacle in order for you to write is a good thing, and if it’s easier on the laptop, then go for it.


Recently though, I’ve been bumping into the benefits of handwriting (articles, studies, I even attended a workshop) and it seems the evidence is pretty overwhelming. It is better to write by hand.


So I thought I’d share a quick a summary of why – if you can – you should write with pen and paper – particularly when writing for yourself, e.g. journaling. There are studies to back all of these things up, but as I’m not really a study-quoting kind of gal, you’ll just have to take my word for it.


So here’s why you should think about writing by hand if you can: (Oh, and don’t worry about what you write with or on. There doesn’t need to be an angelic choir singing as you get out your perfect notebook and pen.)


1. It slows us down, helps us focus and process thoughts

a. Our words and our brains need space – you can practically see the steam from the keyboard as your brain and fingers battle for pole position - typing-thinking – thinking-typing – typing-thinking. Writing slows us right down and our brain gets a chance to process the words as we go along.

b. Using hand writing to express thoughts, feelings etc., is more beneficial in relieving stress; we’re apparently more honest using a pen.

c. The process of writing uses a particular part of the brain that blocks out other distractions.


2. It connects us - it’s an embodied experience

a. Our handwriting is a unique part of us that can help us to express emotions and really connect with how we’re feeling. Seeing the words appearing on the page can remind us that we exist.

b. Writing by hand gives our brain direct, visceral feedback. It’s the ‘haptics’ (I know – fancy new word) of writing – physical handling of the tool, the feedback your brain gets from that tool.

c. There is a direct connection between our language centre in the brain and our hands.


3. Helps us to learn

a. Our memory has more to hook onto writing by hand: sound, pressure of pen on paper, smell, colour, feel, shape etc.

b. Extra space in the brain isn’t being taken up by the process of typing/looking at the screen.

c. Our hands actually absorb and hold knowledge. How about that!


4. Other benefits

a. Less screen time is better for our eyes.

b. Gives us an opportunity to write in different places without laptops: in nature, traveling (driving not recommended though).

c. It gives us an opportunity to buy more lovely notebooks and pens, and let’s face it, as people who enjoy writing (whatever we write) we all love a bit of stationery.

d. A first draft will get the chance to get out on the page before the red pen jumps in.

e. Fifty open tabs can’t distract us.

f. We’re not in ‘work mode’ if we’re sitting somewhere your laptop isn’t.

g. It’s a great way to keep our brains active. It’s even prescribed by the medical profession to prevent cognitive decline!

h. If you fancy drawing a doodle – which can help express your feelings – you can!


Some free writing prompts

Here are a couple of prompts for you, obviously I recommend you write these by hand.


Give yourself five minutes for each. Remember the usual rules: Don’t stop writing – wherever your content goes, and don’t look back, think/edit, ‘improve’ - this kind of writing is just for you, no-one else. It can be illegible, nonsensical, messy, dark, embarrassing – whatever it is, it’s better out than in. If you get stuck, repeat the prompt as many times as necessary until something else happens, and I promise, it will.


‘When I write by hand…’

‘What my hand knows…’


If you’d like to know more about how I can get you writing – and keep you writing, check out cpsdayoff.com.

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