The Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

the surprising benefits of writing by hand, literatelives.wordpress.comLast week, as I worked endlessly on my school computer sorting files, typing out procedures, and making preparations for leaving my job (a job my boss, colleagues, and I had pretty much invented as we went along because it was an entirely new position for our building), I yearned to curl up in a cozy chair and journal by hand (instead of on the computer as I usually do).

So this week, when I had a chance to catch up on reading some articles I’d been saving for a long time to enjoy, one in particular, The New York Times’  What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” from June of 2014 caught my eye.

What I read impacted me powerfully, not only as a writer, but also as a grandparent and nurturer of literacy.

Some of the Findings of a Variety of Studies:

  • Writing by hand activates more regions of the brain than keyboarding.
  • Young children who learn to write at the same time they learn to read, learn to read more quickly.
  • People generating ideas in print or cursive, generate more ideas than those using a keyboard.
  • Students who take notes by hand, rather than by keyboard, are better able to understand and remember the information from lecturers and other auditory sources.

The Implications for Me

  • I have always written out the rough drafts of stories, poems, and novels  longhand and will definitely continue to do so.
  • I also print out the work I want to revise and revise in pencil on paper. I will continue to do so.
  • I will start to vary my journaling practice between computer and paper, depending on my mood and the nature of the thinking in which I want to engage. I can always scan in what was written by hand if I want to keep everything together.

The Implications for My Grandparenting Style

I had been thinking a lot about ways to have fun with my grandkids this summer. We live just fifteen minutes away, so activities like picnics and craft projects have always been high on our list. However, just because we live nearby does not mean we cannot write to each other. This summer I will write to one grandchild each week and enclose a card and self-addressed stamped envelope to encourage them to write back. (Why not write to all of them once a week? I do not want this practice to become overwhelming or a burden for them, or by familiarity, to lessen the delight in getting a hand written letter now and then.)

The Implications for This Blog

As the creator of Literate Lives , I will encourage you, my readers to sometimes put pen or pencil to paper, and to ask your children or students (come fall) to, now and then, do the same.

Your Turn

What do you think about this information on writing by hand? How do you want to incorporate this practice in your, your kids’, or your students’ lives? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!



4 thoughts on “The Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

  1. My whole book was written by hand. I wish I could have sent it to the printer handwritten and not bothered with typeset and technology whatsoever. I don’t use pen, I use mechanical pencil. It’s interesting to see how I change from cursive to print as well. I love handwriting.


    1. I also use a mechanical pencil when drafting and revising. And you’re right, it’s fascinating to see how I change from cursive to print spontaneously, without even thinking about it, whether writing fiction or anything else. I wonder if that means something?


  2. I used to write a lot when I was a kid and a teen. Then I started college and writing was no longer fun for me, so I did not write for pleasure anymore. (That was 20 yrs ago). Now children are old enough that I have the time and desire to do so….but fir real this time. I’ve been starting short stories for six months now, not one finished or holding my attention. Mostly because I don’t think it’s any good, or different enough or organizable – maybe? Now I read this – your wise words and realized- I used to writeEVERYTHING in a journal or straight on paper. Years ago before we had iPads and laptops Writing was easier then. Everything you said – your wise words- make all the sense in my head as to why I’m not enjoying my writing like I did when I was a kid. I’m going to order some composition notebooks and my favorite ink pens from the 90s. Thanks!


  3. Thank you so much for your kind words! It’s great you’ve turned back to writing again, and I am grateful my reflecting on the Times’ article has proved useful to you. I hope all goes well for you in your writing, both fiction and non. And remember, don’t judge your stories too soon. Rough drafts are never pretty! If there is a story you still have some feeling for, you might reread it, make some notes to yourself, and embark on draft 2 (in practical pencil or lushly flowy pen–on paper, of course).


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