To support that conclusion, I wanted to quote at least half of a NYT article about how losing handwriting affects learning and brain function. I decided instead to simply send you there to read the whole thing.
The key take-aways I see for us as adult writers are:
- Handwriting engages more areas in the brain than keyboarding (I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating)
- Handwriting stimulates the brain in unique ways
- Writing by hand makes it easier to learn; taking hand-written notes while you’re doing research is one way to cement what you’re learning and, more importantly, to make new associations and connections that are the essence of creativity
- Composing by hand yields more words and more ideas in the children studied; shifting to mind-mapping, freewriting, clustering or recording ideas on a white board can help you generate more ideas
- The better your handwriting, the more your working memory, reading and writing networks are engaged when you’re looking for new ideas (so it pays to keep practicing your penmanship)
- Keyboarding is still valuable; the more tools we use, the more creative results can we achieve.
I’ll admit, going to my keyboard is a deeply engrained neural pattern. When I start to write, I don’t even think about it, I just put my fingers on my keyboard. But sometimes my go-to tool is not the best tool.
Sometimes the best choice is to push away from the computer. When I need fresh ideas or I’m chasing my tail drafting and deleting and drafting and deleting in an attempt to figure out what I want to say, it’s time to pick up a pen and a notepad, or markers and a drawing paper.
I’ll still copy what I find in online research and paste it to a computer file because those files are easier to retrieve. There is simply no point in trying to copy complex links by hand.
But I will now also make notes on paper with different colored pens at the same time I’m cutting and pasting research. To help me remember to lift my hands off the keyboard and pick up a different tool, I’ll put my favorite pens and markers on my desk between my keyboard and monitor.
I suspect that how we research also matters. I’m willing to bet that finding a book on the stacks in a library, flipping through pages and reading a physical book held in your hands generates more ideas and possibilities than research done only online can.
If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Isn’t it great that a computer isn’t the only tool you have!