Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | June 23, 2015

Writing Longhand

This subject came up in one of the funnier “water cooler” conversations at work for me recently, originally involving fountain pens. People are used to hearing people from IT get into complicated and drawn out discussions, and we didn’t disappoint.Ā  In this case my co-worker, a fountain pen aficionado, was trying to interest me in several and I, being very high-maintenance about such things, was being…myself. šŸ™‚

One or two witnesses to this conversation were wondering why I was so demanding about a pen, which brings us to writing. I usually write on a computer, but on a weekly basis, I have longhand writing sessions. The purpose for this is that I’m writing “about” the writing, as if in a journal. Or I might be sketching out future writing. I usually write in my own voice, but I’ve temporarily switched to characters’ voices many times.

I have found that if you’re stuck on something, just writing it down longhand can often get it unstuck. My reason for this has always been that your brain is working on the answer while your hand is writing it on paper. When you’re on the computer, however, this is much harder to do. You can type too fast for your brain to get that far ahead of you. Also, for many people there is the constant need to go into editor mode when on the computer, only because they can. The word processor allows them to present their writing which invites endless editing. Spell-checking becomes easier to do on the fly on a keyboard.

Handwriting doesn’t cause you to do these things because you don’t have any chance of fixing it and seeing it fixed immediately. If your handwriting’s a mess, you accept it and move on.

I looked up this topic, and in addition to the legions of writers who favor writing longhand, I found some references to a scientific/psychological analysis of it. There are articles discussing which hemisphere of the brain is involved with longhand writing versus using a computer, with the assertion being that the right side (long associated with art) is what gets used most when writing longhand. Also, it’s widely reported that people of all ages learn better when writing longhand, regardless of what they’re writing.

Being in the IT field as well as having a desire for writing fiction, it’s in my best interest to bridge the gap between the technology and the arts (sides of the brain). I believe there is a way to stay focused on writing and using a computer keyboard with practice (and the right keyboard šŸ˜‰ ).

But in the meantime, if you haven’t tried writing longhand you really should (with a good pen).

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