Boost Your Creativity: Writing By Hand

‘Tis the holiday season and many of us wish for the latest in technology: a new laptop, a new computer, a new iPad or smartphone.

As writers, our lives often revolve around this technology. We can write stories, send them off to writing buddies or post them online, and research on the internet.

I’m the first to admit that I adore my laptop. I would not have completed my novels without it, but I didn’t start either of them on my computer, nor do I use the keyboard when I’m stuck.

Nope, I write by hand. I have a clipboard with a stack of college ruled paper on it that is my “go-to” story starter “tool.” I wrote much of my first novel by hand, on a yellow legal pad. It then got its first revision as I typed it onto my computer.

I also have a journal that I write in almost daily, but that isn’t for my fiction; my journal is for my soul.

For your next writing session, try it. Try going old school and getting out an actual pen and notebook.

It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, a plain old spiral notebook will work fine. Or, put a sheaf of paper in a binder or on a clipboard. The point here is to try writing your fiction or poems by hand.

Interestingly, research done over the past several years has shown that writing by hand actually increases memory and activates different areas of the brain that are used for imagery than are activated when typing. When we’re writing stories, that’s what we use, our memory and our imagination.

Because of this, writing by hand is super helpful, especially during the early, idea development stages of writing a novel.

If writing by hand gives me greater access to these areas of my brain, no wonder it helps me to get “unstuck” when I’m in a tough spot in a story.

Here are some links that you can investigate if you’d like.

  • How Handwriting Boosts the Brain – WSJ
  • The Great Debate Writing by Hand vs. Keyboarding – scroll down a bit on this page to read the article.
  • Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter –  Psychology Today
    • “Virginia Berninger, a professor at the University of Washington, reported her study of children in grades two, four and six that revealed they wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.”
  • What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades –
    • “When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas. And brain imaging in the oldest subjects suggested that the connection between writing and idea generation went even further. When these children were asked to come up with ideas for a composition, the ones with better handwriting exhibited greater neural activation in areas associated with working memory — and increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks.”

If that’s not enough to get you to try writing by hand, think about this. Every famous classic writer wrote all their stories by hand prior to the 1860’s when the first successful commercial typewriter was invented.

Over this holiday break, try writing by hand. See what happens or if it changes your writing process at all.

What are your thoughts? Does writing by hand or on a keyboard change your creative process? Which do you prefer?

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