So my handwriting is terrible. I’m not bragging, although it does have the advantage of protecting most of what I write, at least the first drafts, which I usually write by hand first, sometimes in a journal, sometimes in a little book I carry around in my back pocket. And good luck to anyone who finds either one and tries to read it because sometimes even I can’t read my own handwriting. Maybe it’s because I’m a southpaw, although other left-handers I knew in school didn’t have terrible handwriting. Mine just kind of stood out. Even in college my professors would say to me, “I can always tell which paper is yours–it’s the one I can’t read.” They were grateful my parents got me a Smith-Corona word processor with a small monitor that had little floppy disks that held about 32 kilobytes. I was the envy of the campus, really, because no one else had one and I feel old just writing that. Even with it I still wrote most of my rough drafts by hand because it was slower and made me think more carefully about what I was writing. Years later a coworker showed me a new laptop–this was before tablets–he’d gotten with a stylus.
“I found that when I typed notes in meetings I didn’t remember things as well as I did when I wrote by hand so this allows me to write down my notes and then it converts them to text,” he said. And of course that reminds me of The Simpsons and the Newton that turned “Beat up Martin” into “Eat up Martha,” and that reminds me of watching The Simpsons in college and now I feel really old, but that’s another story.
There really are benefits to writing by hand, though. This is from the article The Return Of Handwriting:
Separate research studies at Indiana University and UCLA have shown that writing by hand engages parts of the brain that typing and texting don’t, improving the way people process and remember information. That’s because writing by hand is slower, the UCLA researchers hypothesize, requiring the writer to listen more carefully and discern the most important points.
There are a lot of reasons for people to write by hand: some find the slowness of it therapeutic, others are looking for “authenticity”. Sending a handwritten note may seem like a special thing because so few people do it now, so in addition to whatever it says on the surface the subtext is, “I must really like you to go to this much trouble.”I mentioned the handwriting article to my writing group and did an informal poll of how many people still wrote any drafts by hand and I was surprised that I was the only one, although it was early and only three other people had shown up, which is why it was an informal poll, and maybe I should do another draft when there are more people around. When I’m writing a first, or sometimes second, third, or tenth, draft by hand it also has the advantage of preserving everything I’ve written so it’s still there without me having to hit <Undo> a bunch of times. I can still read even what I’ve scratched out–maybe.
And I can also do an informal poll here. Do you still write anything by hand? First drafts, second drafts–just quick notes? Put it in a comment below and don’t feel bad if you have to type it.