Writing has always been a major component of my life, instilled in me from a really young age. I was always making up stories and scribbling ideas for new ones on paper. My handwriting wasn’t particularly neat, but I took that as a sign of creativity — the priority lay in getting the ideas out into the world, not making them fancy and scripted.
While other kids played kickball or sat around on the playground gossiping, I opted to stay indoors during recess so I could work on my stories. I needed peace, quiet, some uninterrupted time and, most of all, space to spread out my papers so they wouldn’t get destroyed by other students.
Despite owning a computer from the age of 9, I still do most of my writing by hand. It’s therapeutic, for one thing, but I sincerely feel like it’s made me a better writer in the long run.
Growing up, I didn’t like typewriters; they were ginormous and clunky, and if I made a mistake, I basically had to start over again. Plus, the words looked really rigid and utilitarian. The same thing went for computer word processing — I’d play around with fonts that mimicked handwriting styles to see if my work somehow felt more genuine.
My stories weren’t some boring government document, perfectly spaced and organized. They were evidence I had a beautiful, budding imagination, looped and dotted across a page.
Handwriting a story makes it a very deliberate creative act. You have to think hard about the precise things you want to say — otherwise you waste time crossing out, erasing or rewriting for clarity.
It also helps organize your thoughts in a really organic way. If I’m writing an article and it ends up being six pages long, front and back, I know I’ve gone too far. I need to visualize how the reader’s experience will be, and that means cutting things.
I’m not the only one who recognizes the benefits of handwriting. Professor of educational psychology, Virginia Berninger, recently told The New York Times that “handwriting — forming letters — engages the mind, and that can help children pay attention to written language.”
Decent handwriting also directly correlates to academic success. Associate professor of early childhood education at Florida International University, Laura Dinehart, published an article last year stating that children who have not been taught how to write papers by hand often receive poor grades because they are overwhelmed with the task of properly forming letters and as a result, the content of their writing suffers.
All smart authors write, edit and rewrite. Add handwriting into the mix, and the words and ideas get further ingrained into your brain. You’re able to understand how thoughts and ideas are pieced together because each letter connects to a word, connects to a sentence and eventually a paragraph. Kids need to learn these skills as well.
Actively watching that connection be created before your very eyes makes you appreciate the hard work you’ve put into a story or article. It’s living proof of your creativity.
I often frame certain drafts I’m particularly proud of once I’ve transcribed them. It’s a way for me to see how far I’ve come and inspire me further.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really learned to appreciate the art of handwriting. Words can be deleted in a word document, but no one can manipulate the things I say when I put pen to paper. If my computer is destroyed or stolen, hundreds of stories go with it. But if the wind blows a few sheets of looseleaf into the atmosphere, no worries — I’ll just rewrite that part again.
The importance of handwriting should not be downplayed in schools. I’ll continue to write by hand for as long as I’m able to keep arthritis at bay. It may be faster to type, but for special projects — things near and dear to my hear — nothing can beat handwriting. If great authors of the past could do it and immortalize their words, so can I. And if that isn’t encouraging enough, I’m not sure what is.
This post was sponsored by BIC.