Although the days of scrawling out manuscripts with a quill pen on yellowed parchment are far behind us, many writers still swear by a simple notebook and pen to record their ideas and observations. In fact, a number of famous writers including Quentin Tarantino, Amy Tan and Joyce Carol Oates have admitted to writing early drafts of their work almost entirely in longhand. So what’s the appeal of writing by hand in a world of keyboards and touch screens?
According to research, writing by hand has some big advantages over typing, and while it wouldn’t be realistic for today’s writers to switch entirely to longhand, it can still be beneficial to put a pen to paper every now and then.
Here are some of the most important reasons you shouldn’t scrap handwriting entirely.
1. It helps you work more efficiently
Contrary to what you may think, research shows that when we write by hand, we’re actually able to write more efficiently. In one study led by Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, students who used a pen and paper to write their essays not only wrote more and completed the exercise more quickly, but also used more complete sentences and expressed more ideas than those who used a keyboard.
2. It can help you stay focused
Perhaps one of the reasons we can accomplish more when writing with a pen and paper is that there are fewer opportunities for distraction. With a computer screen in front of you, there will always be countless things vying for your attention, from the email notifications that pop up at random to the never-ending stream of articles and YouTube videos that catch your eye.
But when you use nothing but a notebook and pen, you’re alone with your thoughts and are able to generate new ideas or just get some much-needed free writing done.
3. It keeps you sharp and facilitates brainstorming
Because physical the act of forming letters on a page engages your motor skills and the regions of the brain associated with processing and remembering information, writing by hand can give your brain a workout. Researchers also point out that while it’s not always practical to write by hand, it can be hugely beneficial during the brainstorming and goal setting phase of composition writing. So the next time you’re brainstorming, need to come up with a new plot twist, or are struggling to stay focused on the task at hand, consider setting aside your laptop for a minute and going back to the basics with a notebook and pen.