handwriting and blogging

Monday, June 16, 2014 |
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?


Ginny Larsen said...

Why are you SO EFFING SMART and THOUGHTFUL?! seriously... sometimes i feel inadequate (sometimes).

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Ooooo good point. I hand write as a way to work things through. Like to do lists, ideas, plans, etc.

I usually type my reviews but sometimes only a pen or pencil feels right.

I DEFINITELY learn things better when I write them out.

Liviania said...

I always wrote my class notes by hand; I remembered them so much better than if I type them.

Nowadays I mostly make sure to handwrite lists of things I need to do. I generally don't even have to take the list with me, because writing is enough to seal it in my memory.

But I can't write reviews longhand because then I get lazy about typing them up.

missprint said...

See, for blogging I never handwrite anything. I don't back up in word docs. It all lives in my wordpress site except for author interviews which I do save to my computer (though now I'm wondering why).

Calendars, planning, checklists all go into my phone.

Creative writing novel projects: typed.

Work things: handwritten.

Poems usually handwritten then typed.

BUT I recently got into sending postcards and writing to a friend out of state so I am still handwriting and I don't think I'll ever stop (also took handwritten notes all through school!) but I always have a disconnect when it comes to handwriting things that will eventually be on a computer. Especially when I type so much faster than I write!

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I write some reviews out longhand and some completely on the computer. But I hand-write A LOT in my life -- one of the crucial pieces of setting up my apartment was making sure that there was no point in the apartment that was too far away from a notebook and some pens.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

I was JUST commenting on Fig & Thistle's blog about handwritten journals! I don't do much journaling anymore, but I do really prefer to write things out by hand before I type them. I don't do it with my blog, but when I write fiction or poetry it almost always begins handwritten. There's something about it... I'm more forgiving about my writing if its handwritten, as if that's burned in my brain as a first draft! I also absolutely used to use writing a study tool in school, so this NYT article makes so much sense to me. I would remember things I had written better than if I had typed them and I would remember where on the page I had written them, if that makes sense. We also do a lot of handwriting in my job, which I like. I hand write a lot of orders, which feels old fashioned all the time, but it also really me remember orders!

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