Handwriting or Computer?


I have a pet peeve.

“Real writing happens with a pen and paper.”

I’ve heard this quite a bit from many different people and it makes me a little crazy.

I hate writing by hand, it cramps, my hand writing is sloppy (and degenerates over time) and it feels like a chore.  When I’m writing on my laptop I love the sound, the feeling (I imagine I’m playing a piano and the words are music), and the fact that I can write faster for longer before my carpel tunnel kicks in.

So what it is about hand writing that makes people claim it is the true path to writing artfully?

First let’s look at some pop-science.  Psychology Today tells us that learning cursive writing (specifically cursive) is best for your brain and development.  It also helps with development and communication of thoughts and ideas in kids.

Some writers swear by it and science seems to support it, but is that to suggest that it is the only way to go?  That real writing only happens when you write by hand?

At the end of the day, it’s a preference.  If I had to write by hand I would probably spend more time being annoyed about it than I would be actually writing, so I wouldn’t get much done.  Although there seem to be some cognitive benefits to the practice (which make me think I ought to give it a try more often than I do), I find it frustrating to hear people suggest that it is the path to ‘real’ writing.

There are many different ways to grow as a writer and I would definitely not want to deny one of them out of peevishness, so I won’t.  Writing by hand is good for your brain.  It leads to better motor functioning, clarity of thought and it is a good exercise for young and old.

As we progress into the digital age, I reckon hand writing will fall by the wayside but it’s likely, given our constant ‘evolution‘, we will find other things that are beneficial to work our brains not to mention the fact that we will keep finding our way back to the oldies-but-goodies.

So do I think that ‘real’ writing only happens with a pen and paper?  Nope.  I think real writing is whatever is real to you and whether you want to use the computer or go the old fashioned route, all things can lead to greatness.  Your writing is your own and it doesn’t matter how you get your words out, just as long as you do it and love it!

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

4 thoughts on “Handwriting or Computer?”

  1. I think the thing with cursive writing, something that it shares with typing (or at least those of us who learned touch typing) is that it very much lends itself to “flow”. This is something my friend Errol has been telling me about. The less your brain has to think, the more continuously you can do something, the easier it is for your brain to enter a “flow” state, a state in which thoughts and creativity come out uninterrupted.

    Cursive writing helps with this because unlike printing, there is no stopping the pen between each letter. Typing is the same. Those of us who learned typing from a young age or have been doing it for years know it second nature. We don’t have to think or look down to make sure our fingers are hitting the right keys and it’s a lot easier for our brains to translate its thoughts almost instantaneously. However those, like my dad for instance, who constantly need to refer back to the keyboard and who may have that special “two-finger typing” method are constantly having their creative process interrupted and can’t get into that flow state.

    For myself, yeah, I have a hard time with cursive writing (I write like a left hander with my right hand) sometimes and it’s a lot more frustrating than just trusting the keyboard.

    1. Yeah that definitely makes sense, getting into the flow in any way you can is great. I actually type mostly with two fingers but I have been doing it for so long I don’t really have to look at the keyboard (accept of course when I am thinking about it and I get self conscious), I also write like a left-hander with my left hand so getting ink on my hand is not my favorite nor is smudging the words.

      All in all though it is a good idea to trust whatever form you use and get into the flow!

  2. Interesting post – I’d never really thought of the importance of handwriting in brain development and coordination. That said, I’m the same as manpans. Typing is a swifter, smoother method of getting words down, and the less interference with the words in my head the better. Ideally, we’d be able to thought-scribe them onto our screens, but I think that’s going to be a feature of SF rather than reality for a while yet!

    1. Oh the Scifi dreams! Although there is something I find pleasing about the look of the letters and words, seeing how they align on the page, there is something visual about it I would miss if I went thought-to-page. I’ve thought about recording from time to time, but it doesn’t seem to have the same appeal as typing!

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