You may have read a recent article in the New York Times about handwriting and education, and the links that researchers see between putting pen (or pencil!) to paper and idea creation, memory and learning ability. What you probably didn’t do is print it out, highlight the particularly interesting bits, and then carry that paper copy around in your purse for two weeks, waiting for the ideal moment to stop and write a reflection blog post. Who does that, anyway? A nerd like me. *grin*
Maria Konnikova’s June 2nd piece gathered information from recent studies that suggest that handwriting can have a long-standing effect on learning. She wrote that “[P]rinting, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns – and each results in a distinct end product,” and, “[W]riting by hand allows … a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.” It’s an interesting premise, and in my case, a convincing one.
I began to think of the ways in which I wrote as a child, and continue to write today. I learned to print in kindergarten. I began to learn cursive lettering in first grade (age six!). In third grade, my mother began homeschooling my siblings and me, and handwriting landed very far down the priority list. In middle school my family bought a home computer, but I shared the use of it with everyone else. I wrote anything I wanted to say down on paper, usually in print. And I eventually started corresponding with pen pals all over the world, some of whom used beautiful and peculiar print that almost looked like a different script.
By the time I was back in a formal classroom in high school, I’d taught myself to write only in my version of perfect print: some of it borrowed from the Norwegian pen pal who lived above the Arctic Circle, some handed down from my mother, some cadged from an English teacher whose chalkboard printing I particularly admired. I learned to type in a high school class by sheer force of will – I would not get anything less than an A grade! And most of the rest of my life has been spent typing (with the essential caveat that I took class notes by hand), including college and grad school papers, work and personal emails, and endless chat messages to friends.
The interesting thing about blogging is that it has reintroduced me to handwriting. Over the past 5+ years I have filled a succession of notebooks with scribbled thoughts on characters, plots, weaknesses, strengths, lists and who I’d recommend the book to. Whether or not I put those notes in a later review doesn’t matter – there’s something about writing out my visceral response to a book that helps me connect to it AND dissect it. I begin to see larger themes and similarities, and I remember the reading experience far longer.
So, that NYT article made perfect sense. Handwriting has always been one of my outlets of personal expression, but it is also a tool that helps me understand things on a deeper level, and think more creative thoughts overall. No wonder I love it! And no wonder I persevere in writing my reviews and blog posts long-hand, even when it would be far easier to type and hit ‘Save,’ and not bother with that in-between draft.
Now I’m wondering about you, my fellow readers. Where does handwriting fit in your life? Do you believe the handwriting hype? How do you write your reviews?