The Multiple Benefits of Handwriting

cursive-writing

 

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.

Why I Write and Why I Don’t Write

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(c) Sylvia Plath 1953

I was asked to write about why I write, or why I “DON’T” write. I will start with my reasons for not writing as much as I would like to. Scratch that. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember (but hasn’t everybody?): I’ve got piles of diaries at home, few fairy tales, some short stories, few poems, a bit of fiction, a bit of science fiction, some prose meets poetry, lists, letters, notes, soapy cards for mom’s birthdays, academic papers, essays, articles. And now I’m writing my first post on my blog. Hurray. And yet, I’m not a writer. I don’t write. I’m not a writer. Okay, I write here and there, but I don’t  write. I scribble. I jot down. I fake. I presume I’m writing. Continue reading

“Why I Write” by George Orwell

george-orwell

“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. Nevertheless the volume of serious — i.e. seriously intended — writing which I produced all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen pages. I wrote my first poem at the age of four or five, my mother taking it down to dictation. I cannot remember anything about it except that it was about a tiger and the tiger had ‘chair-like teeth’ — a good enough phrase, but I fancy the poem was a plagiarism of Blake’s ‘Tiger, Tiger’. At eleven, when the war or 1914-18 broke out, I wrote a patriotic poem which was printed in the local newspaper, as was another, two years later, on the death of Kitchener. From time to time, when I was a bit older, I wrote bad and usually unfinished ‘nature poems’ in the Georgian style. I also attempted a short story which was a ghastly failure. That was the total of the would-be serious work that I actually set down on paper during all those years. Continue reading