Monday, June 20, 2011

The Joys of Handwriting

I read a recent article in the local paper about how computers are killing students’ handwriting skills. Their handwriting has become an illegible scribble. This becomes a particular issue when state exams are conducted primarily with pen and paper. I found this interesting because I personally love to handwrite. I handwrote this post at the local coffee shop.

I also read an article that suggested those who did a lot of handwriting had a greater capacity for clarity of thought and creativity. It has something to do with hand-eye coordination and exercising the brain. I couldn’t say my brain is sufficiently exercised, nor that I’m capable of clear thinking all the time, but I will say there is a certain freedom in handwriting.

I handwrite my first drafts – novels, articles, posts – because it gets me away from the distractions of the computer. I can write anywhere without having to worry about battery life. It also helps me write faster because I’m not pausing to fix phrases or correct sentences and I’m not distracting myself with research midway through a session. And, while I’m handwriting, I’m not tempted to check Facebook, Twitter, my emails, or – cough – play a game of solitaire. I can focus on my work.

Why do you like or dislike handwriting? Do you think the loss of handwriting skills in our youth will become an issue?

53 comments:

  1. I'm always amazed when you tell me you handwrite your books :) Imagine the typing that goes after that :)

    And imagine me, not only that I forgot how to handwrite since I work on computer like ten hours a day, but I'm also forgetting our Cyrillic alphabet since my language has both Latin and Cyrillic alphabet but Cyrillic isn't used too much on computers :)

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  2. Wow-- you handwrite your first draft?? All I hand write is my journal--have never ever had good handwriting even before computers!

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  3. I handwrite everything as well. (I'm also very slow on the computer, what with my hunt and peck style of typing.) I don't know if it's made my handwriting better, but my thoughts and ideas flow faster and smoother.

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  4. I barely ever handwrite anymore, it's all on computers - not sure how well my handwriting skills have held up.

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  5. It's amazing that you handwrite all your drafts. For me, it's true that handwriting drafts is helpful in that it takes me away from all the distractions, so I'd handwrite a few pages when I'm stuck. But I'm a very, very slow writer -- so if I were to handwrite everything (and then type it up), that'd take forever.

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  6. I always handwrite my first drafts. I just feel more creative working with a pen and paper.

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  7. You are a STAR for using pen and paper for your stories and drafts!! That's brilliant! Yay!! Me, I have ATROCIOUS handwriting -so bad my boss has banned my writing in my workplace - serious story!

    But my sister's penmanship is beautiful - all loops and curls and florid lettering - joined up too! Her sons who are computer geeks and programmers have taken after me I'm afraid - awful penmanship - but I'd like to think it's more to do with the fact that they've grown up enamoured with computers and keyboards! Ahem!

    Take care
    x

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  8. Lynda,
    Thanks for following my blog. I have to type because I have carpal-tunnel and tendinitis in both hands. I'm not one to go under the knife, so I just type. When it hurts, I stop. So far that works for me.

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  9. Hi Lynda,

    School work in our time was all hand-written. Now my daughter in secondary school types up projects on the computer and takes it in on a flash drive to be marked.

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  10. I used to write a lot of my stories by hand, but as I can legibly type faster than I write and I can barely keep up with my thoughts while typing ... I've all but ditched writing anything I don't have to.
    Though there are times when the laptop is inaccessible (nine times outta ten that's when the hubby hijacks it for online gaming). Then, I reach for the old pencil and notebook by the bedside table. But man is it a mess of sectioned off sentences, arrows pointing to merged paragraphs and eraser marks.
    When my writing needs to be legible (addresses, forms), I err ... 'small caps' it. ^_^

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  11. I just dislike how slow it is writing by hand. Other than that, I do love the act of utilising yummy stationery - and being away from a computer screen is just a bonus. :)

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  12. I have to say that the quickness of the computer has allowed me to write faster, and I believe, better. Those distractions are there, but I feel that when I'm really focused on my writing, nothing can really distract me...not FB, not blogs etc. I got delayed for a meeting last Thursday though, and didn't have my computer. I hand wrote a blog post and that went okay too!

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  13. In the Fifties, when I was a teenager writing stories, there were no computers and I wrote everything longhand and then typed them on my mother's clumsy Underwood typewriter. At age 71, I don't think I'd get anything written if I still had to do this! The computer is great invention for aging hands.

    But I can relate to the loss of handwriting skills. I'm not sure, though, that it will be an issue for the current generation. I don't think it matters how we communicate, only that we do it well, whatever the means.

    Thanks for lovely comment today on my daughter's tribute to her gay father.
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

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  14. p.s. But like you, to avoid distractions, I type my stories on my old laptop where I can't keep checking into the Internet!!

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  15. Interestingly, I was sans computer for a week and had no choice but to handwrite my posts as well as anything else which made me notice how differently I go about the task of writing depending upon whether I'm using a pen or keyboard. I'm thinking of going back to handwriting.

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  16. My son laments that his signature is so bad and each time he has to sign his name, he swears he's going to practice. Somehow, he never finds the time...

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  17. Interesting! I type all my first drafts, but now I'm wondering if maybe I should hand write the second drafts so I can focus real hard on what I'm writing. ;) Thanks for sharing this!

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  18. I like my handwriting when it's calm, purposeful and strong. But once the fatigue sets it, which it used to very early when I was a kid, forget about it!

    I have also read that handwriting is good for creativity. Because it connects the hand, the eye and the brain, it's more stimulating and forces you to focus more. It's more a physical activity than typing.

    Also, I think because handwriting requires more work to ensure legibility and other things, it's less easy to write for the sake of writing. In handwriting, every word counts.

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  19. I just read another post about cursive writing and I find it an interesting thing about which to speculate.

    I still send cards with handwritten notes because I love the ceremony-- choosing a card right for an individual, actually seeing my own handwriting! I also still write checks rather than paying electronically. Though I will admit since I press too hard on the page, I do get writer's cramp!

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  20. Also, I type a lot, of course, but I handwrite almost every day in my diary. I like the connection to the paper and the ink. I enjoy hearing the spine of the diary crack, feeling the soft paper under my hand, seeing the ink seep from the pen. It's especially nice reading it in the future... You reconnect with the tactile nature of writing that entry. Do you feel the same way about handwriting your work? It is a "joy."

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  21. My handwriting has taken a nosedive since I started typing regularly. I used to have such nice penmanship, and now my hand cramps after a paragraph! It's pretty sad.

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  22. I write all the time in school, so I can't really empathize with this. My handwriting is legible, but I wouldn't go so far to say I have nice penmanship. I prefer typing because when I write something first, then type it, I feel like I just did the same thing twice. It's easier and saves me time.

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  23. Dezzy, Yeah, I don't mind all the typing I have to do afterwards. I can either switch off as I type or do a little editing as I type. Win win. wow, forgetting part of your alphabet seems oddly tragic. Makes sense though.

    Terri, yeah, it's relaxing too.

    Alex, yeah the hunt n peck method can slow down the creativity.

    Timmy, hehehe

    Emy, yes! handwriting when stuck also helps enormously.

    L G Smith, yes exactly :)

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  24. Old Kitty, lol at the banning of your handwriting in the workplace. Your handwriting sounds a lot like my brother's. He loves his computers and keyboards too.

    M J Macie, It's interesting you say that. When I type for too long I get problems in my fingers and wrists. I can handwrite for a lot longer. Maybe because I'm used to it.

    Nas, at least your daughter can't get marked down for poor handwriting ;)

    Aldrea, haha yeah occasionally my handwriting looks like that too, but I try to keep it to a minimum. ;)

    Trisha, I'm a super fast handwriter so speed for me isn't an issue (probably only because I've done so much of it).

    Liza, it's nice when that happens--getting into the writing zone where nothing can distract.

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  25. Ann, I'm with you -- I don't think I could edit a novel without a computer. I'd have to pay someone to type it all up for me instead I think. Those old typewriters were horrible.

    mshatch, a whole week without a computer!? EEK!

    Clarissa, lol

    Madeline, might be worth a try.

    Loveable, hehe yeah, fatigue ruins good handwriting (and good typing too lol) ;)

    Suze, handwritten notes in cards make it so much more personal too. I can relate to writers' cramp -- happens less when I'm handwriting though.

    Loveable, yes, absolutely. It's a full sensory experience that computers just can't compete with.

    Jennifer, it's funny how we lose skills when we don't use them.

    McKenzie, I never said my handwriting was good, but it is enjoyable. Yep, there is that double handling, but I call it an indulgence worth the time ;)

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  26. Hi Lynda! I admire your discipline. Any chance of bottling it and selling some to me? ;-) (I haven't tried to handwrite my books - I'm afraid I won't be able to decipher it when I'm done.)

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  27. This is such an interesting question. First, I suspect that, in the who-knows-how-distant-future, kids won't be taking tests with pen and paper anymore. And I'm not sure there's any actual research to suggest differences in quality of cognitive organization based on handwriting vs typing, but you make some really good points regarding the distractions that are available on an internet-connected computer.

    However, for me, being able to type is awesome. My entire life, my handwriting has been terrible. In elementary school, it's the only area I got less than excellent marks in. Because I've always been an overachiever, I practiced handwriting for hours when I was a kid, trying to get better, but I could never get it quite right.

    Typing, however ... ah, that's heaven for me. I can type almost as fast as I think, rearrange and edit quickly, and I never have ink or smeared pencil-lead on my hand (a peril of being left-handed). Now that I'm an adult, I avoid handwriting whenever possible!

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  28. Lynda, this is a great post. You know, when I first started writing at 14 or thereabouts, I hand-wrote everything. Still have the piles of three-ring binders containing my ongoing historical saga to prove it, too. As I've gotten older, however, I've switched almost solely to my laptop. I do keep a notebook in the car, one in my purse, another in my desk at the DDJ (that's Dreaded Day Job, for those of you paying attention), and sometimes I'll write patches of dialogue, sentences, or particular words which come to mind.

    You know, maybe I should give the handwriting thing a go again. I really used to love it.

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  29. Even with fixing things my typing is still faster. But I do like to prewrite and make webs and stuff like that in a notebook.

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  30. You make an excellent argument for handwriting first drafts to avoid the distractions of the computer. I'm very prone to getting carried away by those distractions when I'm supposed to be writing. But my right hand aches when I overuse it, including too much handwriting, so I usually only handwrite when I'm plotting. There's just something about pen and paper that makes my mind feel free to wander.

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  31. I love handwriting too.

    In fact, your post is making me consider doing my new rough draft by hand as well...

    :-)

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  32. I've found that handwriting out my notes is really helping me make my current revision in progress that much better. On the rough draft, I'm just laying out the bare bones. With revisions, I get to lay on some meat, and not having the screen glare mesmerizing me helps with clarity.

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  33. I think when you are in the habit of writing with your hand, you have to form a mental picture of what you intend to write first (unless you are fastwriting). I think those of us who started writing before computers were available (yes, I am that old) approach writing differently. Not necessarily better, but there's definitely a different process.

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  35. Truthfully my handwriting has always looked like chicken-scratch, and so I love working on a computer. But I appreciate the tactile value of handwriting and indulge in it when I'm on vacation as I usually leave all electronics at home. It's fun, but takes some time to build up hand muscles again:)

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  36. I LOVE to write by hand and do it often. There's something about a pen in my hand that just doesn't compare to typing.

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  37. Hi Lynda. Great post. I used to write everything out first. Like you said, just to get away from the computer. I don't like working at a desk. Now that I have a laptop, I can work on it anywhere, so I sometimes write new chapters, but there are times when I want to write it out on paper first. I use Gregg shorthand mixed in with my handwriting!

    My two youngest kids(now adults) never liked to handwrite. They print, and I've noticed that many young people do the same. One teacher told me they're not concerned about handwriting anymore. Very interesting topic.

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  38. I LOVE my husband's handwriting. Mine, however, is HORRIBLE.

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  39. Over here, they're talking about not teaching handwriting any more. I'm aghast.

    I handwrite my synopses, outlines and queries for some reason. It does use a different part of the brain.

    How will they sign their names if they don't learn to write? I'm baffled. I guess that means no more essay tests. Shrug.

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  40. I have several story beginnings written up on paper. I don't usually start my novels by handwriting them, but I agree, there is freedom in writing things out longhand. :) One reason why I don't like it is because my hand usually starts to cramp up after a while; and the pens I use have a habit of running out of ink.

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  41. I love handwriting, I just don't get much time for it. But every once in a while I'll handwrite a letter to a friend who lives far away, or I'll handwrite a blog post. It helps to feel back in touch with paper and ink, in a way that print outs don't make me feel.

    I agree that we don't put as much emphasis on handwriting any moreas we should. It's a shame and can even be detrimental to mental development, as you suggest.

    Jai

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  42. Samantha, sure, it's yours for $1m !!! ;)

    Sarah, I'd agree with your assessment of the future -- that kids won't take exams using paper and pens. Also, I've noticed a lot of scientific minded people often don't have good handwriting. I'm an artist so I treat my handwriting like a form of art. Maybe it's based on the artistic side of the brain? No idea.

    Alyssia, haha yeah I used three-ring binders too when I was young.

    Laura, yep I'm noticing that's a trend.

    Susan, and we gotta love a wondering mind ;)

    Misha, hehe

    Jeffrey, yeah that screen glare can be mesmerizing ;) It's great you've found what works for you.

    Tonja, I handwrite as fast as I type -- which is pretty fast. You make a great point though about those who started writing before computers.

    Mark, yep I think it's that tactile value I love so much.

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  43. Shari, yes, yes and yes :)

    LynNerd, aw, I never learnt how to write in shorthand. I reckon it would be a great skill to have.

    Samantha, hehehe I don't think there is anyone who likes their own handwriting. ;)

    M Pax, WHAT???? Not teaching handwriting???? Oh my gosh! That just boggles my mind.

    Golden, haha yeah I've gone through so many pens this year. And I have this thing for purple pens too which aren't as easy to find.

    Jai, in the case of hand written letters, I love the personal touch it creates.

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  44. I'm a pretty good typer but I find that now, my handwriting has become pretty illegible. I also have the same problem! I need to handwrite first drafts, otherwise I'll try to edit things or get distracted by facebook or blogger.

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  45. So we are soul sisters, Lynda.I too handwrite my first draft of stories and books and articles. Yes, it is indeed a welcome change from sitting on the computer all day long.

    One of my students had such a bad handwriting, that I was unable to correct her assignment. Can you believe it, I made her read it in front of me, so that I could grade it.

    Btw...how did you know that I play solitaire when I am working on the second/third/ninety sixth draft. I don't remember telling you that ;)

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  46. I don't have patience for handwriting. My thoughts go faster than my hands can express them. But I can type as fast as I think.

    We're always talking about the demise of handwriting. I know some standardized tests are on-line now. I wonder what it will be like for my kids' generation.

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  47. I hand wrote my entire first novel. Now it's all computers for me. I still love the art of pen on paper but due to time issues I have no choice. I do believe loss of handwriting skill will be an issue. I find some teens are not even able to fill out a simple job application at the mall. :(

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  48. I do a mixture of handwriting and typing.

    I used to teach English at a program for troubled teens where everything they did, every essay I assigned, had to be handwritten. I got very good, very quickly, at figuring out what their scribbles actually said.

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  49. Aimee, they are terrible distractions, aren't they? ;)

    Rachna, hehe the makers of solitaire have a lot to answer for... ;)

    Theresa, it's another evolution of the human race

    Ciara, yeah, that becomes a huge issue when they can't even fill in a form. Eek.

    M J Fifield, hehehe yep, sometimes it's like cracking a code ;)

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  50. Back when I was in shape, I could keyboard at over 100 wpm. But the writing wasn't good. Not illiterate, just not deep. I write my manuscripts with pencil now. It slows down the rate at which I put my thoughts down, and they come out better.

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  51. Mark, I love your different approach. It's generallly the slow speed of handwriting that turns people away from it.

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  52. Today, it seems children skip cursive writing for typing. Oddly, schools aren't teaching keyboarding/typing skills either until much later — after children have been pecking around the keyboard for years. I enjoy writing notes, but keep returning to the computer for the majority of my writing.

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  53. Stacy, oh, now that's interesting that the schools don't teach typing schools until later. Doesn't seem logical in many ways.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.