As computers are now mastering almost every aspect of our lives, we find it more and more difficult to resort to pen and paper to express an idea, write a message, jot down thoughts, and other such activities. Have you ever thought why teachers bombarded us with hand writing tasks and homework if now we don’t bother with making those perfectly shaped letters since we barely use them anymore?
When was the last time you wrote a letter to a friend? By hand, that is. Yes, the process requires more time and effort but think about what this means for your friend – regardless of the content, what you are also saying is that you value them and that investing a bit more of your time is worth it.
The thing is handwriting involves graceful movement, dancing, drawing rounded forms – and all these add emotion to the text as well as to the audience. Emoticons will never be able to restore emotion in our soulless typing. And what about freedom of expression: do we express ourselves more freely with a pen than with a keyboard?
Well, while word-processing is a normative, standardized tool, handwriting does seem to allow you a greater freedom: you are creating a form that software cannot. You don’t have to follow a set pattern.
According to neuroscientists and psychologists, the benefits of handwriting for your brain run deep so I’ve listed here a few:
It enhances learning
Handwriting strengthens the learning process and produces a healthier mind. On the other hand, typing produces mindless processing. One of the most effective ways of studying is rewriting your notes by hand.
It’s a key step in cognitive development
It boosts cognitive skills for young children as they benefit more from learning how to write shapes and letters by hand than via technology.
It improves memory
Psychologists say that writing by hand has both short-term and long-term effects on the memory. If you’re a student, handwriting your notes could help you understand better and retain concepts, ideas, theories, and facts. This is not the case when you use your laptop for the same activity.
It has a soothing effect
Handwriting could be a form of graphotherapy. If you write peaceful content, those sentences will have a positive impact on your brain.
It engages your motor skills
Handwriting entails movement – from the holding of your pen to touching the paper and to how you are tracing the letters, one round form after the other. This is why writing by hand is considered a great sensory motor exercise.
It uses more of your brain
The region of the brain that is activated during reading is also activated when you are writing by hand, but not while typing or texting. The movements involved in handwriting leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain, helping us recognize letters. This implies a strong correlation between reading and writing by hand.
It could help those with special needs
Cursive writing aids in preventing the reversal and inversion of letters so it could be an effective way to help treat dyslexia and dysgraphia.
It sharpens aging minds
Using pen and paper keeps our brains active in old age. Simply put, handwriting is good for everyone – kids, adults, and the elderly.
It reduces distractions
Cursive writing can train self-control ability and helps those with behavioral or sensory processing disorders.
It inspires creativity
Finally – and probably most importantly if you’re a writer – handwriting cultivates creativity in ways typing can’t. Because putting words on paper is a slower process, it helps you express more ideas and inspires more creative thought.
Many writers have expressed their preference for hand writing their drafts only to type them later for editing. (I confess I use pen and paper in drafting my poems as well as for my brief free writing exercises which creates an intimacy with the words I’m crafting.)
Handwriting is an art form. And it’s dying. Even though research suggests there is a strong connection between handwriting and broader educational development, public schools in the United States are removing cursive writing from the classrooms. As kids and students are becoming more accustomed to texting, typing, and tweeting, cursive writing will appear to them as peculiar as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
So is it that how we write matters just as much as what we write? Whether we write shopping lists, reminders, birthday cards, essays, notes, articles, poems, or love letters, whenever we do so, we are training our brains to work just a bit differently. Yes, typing is more practical because it’s faster, but it lacks the beautiful nuances and layers of personality and vulnerability that handwriting adds to the words we artfully conceive.
PS: Sadly, I have not handwritten this article prior to typing it.