Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Write It By Hand

A while ago I mentioned in a post how studies had shown that writing by hand helps keep your mind. Last Sunday, Parade Magazine published a short article in their Stay Healthy column about this very idea.

Except it's not just an idea. A psychologist, Karin James, Ph.D., shared results of studies she and her colleagues had performed. They found that five year old children practicing writing letters by hand used regions of the brain involved in mastering reading skills. Children typing the letters they were learning didn't not fire up that section of the brain. College students who take notes by hand answered conceptual questions better than students who typed their notes. Study after study shows that we process what we write by hand better than what we type.

I bring this up again because of another item mentioned in the article. The Common Core State Standards that are supposed to guide education curricula only require schools to teach writing in kindergarten and first grade. Schools are then directed to concentrate on typing. Since many students come to their first day of school without being able to even write their own names, its seems a little more time is needed to work on this skills. According to James, "in children, writing by hand helps improve letter recognition which is the strongest predictor of reading success." Follow this link to find lots more facts about handwriting and its connections to reading and learning. If you have young children, you really should read this.

I don't usually get involved in political things, but I think many people, including me, have no idea of the nitty-gritty details of Common Core. I won't share any more of my opinions on it but the facts back up that we all should do some of our writing by hand.

I do my book outlines by hand and often write scenes when I'm editing. I write out post outlines for my blogs and of course, endless lists of things to do. As I mentioned last week, I write twitter posts on a tablet and then use them during the next week. Usually I do that while watching the news or a TV show. When I'm preparing a blurb or logline, I write many versions of each by hand.

Do you write a lot of things by hand? Do you remember those penmanship lessons in grade school? Do you agree with the importance of learning handwriting for children?


  1. Hi Susan .. I still take notes when I go to talks or listen to discussions .. and then transcribe them into something I can read when I get home! That way I get two bites at the cherry - on the subject I was interested in ...

    I can quite believe what you're saying about children and learning ...

    I use both - sometimes I find typing things easier .. but I'm a typist ... but a great deal of my work as such is by hand .. and I still write letters out ...

    Cheers Hilary

  2. Susan,
    Yes! I question myself sometimes but I write all my books by hand. I type up little bits at a time, as I go. I'm not sure if this is due to the times when I was formulating my ideas about how to work/study/learn (in other words my age) or if it's simply a good creative practice. I don't tend to question it. I do it. What I find is, if I don't do it frequently enough, writing feels really odd and my hand doesn't know how to behave. Nice post! Glad you brought this up.

  3. That's interesting. I used to write everything by hand. Most of my novels are composed on the computer, although I'll write out the outlines and notes by hand.

  4. Most of my work starts out as handwritten in notebooks or on pads of paper. When that gets too unwieldy - or when I can no longer read my own handwriting - I move to the computer.

    I remember practicing cursive writing, making loops over and over, staying between the lines....

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

  5. I think the school system is making a big mistake eliminating handwriting from their roster.

    I still take notes by hand, but I no longer write novels in longhand because of arthritis in my hands.

  6. Wrote everything by hand through school and university, think kids should indeed too. Now though I don't, as it isn't healthy for my crummy arm to write or do much else with it haha

  7. Interesting. I was very concerned when my grandkids' school stopped teaching "cursive" - writing, calling it unnecessary. If they don't learn to write longhand they also can't read it. If I want to write one of them a note, I have to print or type it. Think about the implications.

  8. Awesome. I'll just have to keep my kids journaling then. I type mostly, but when I make notes about stories, they're always on paper. I guess that's part of the reason I rarely have to refer to the notes. =) I'm a firm believer in handwriting and write at least 200 to 500 words at the end of each day by hand. Definitely a healthy practice.

  9. How fascinating. I didn't know, but it does make sense. I used to write by hand a lot, and it's important to me that my son learn how to write. They don't teach cursive in school anymore in our region, but I'll teach him that myself.

  10. I don't write much by hand these days - and now I think I should. I DO know that I process info much better when I take notes by hand, though, so I always do that when I'm in a class!!

  11. I've always written my books and stories by hand. I think faster that way. When I type on the computer, there's this pressure to make it perfect.

  12. I love long hand and outline by hand.
    All my flash fiction, which is normally under 1000 words, is also handwritten, as well as various snippets/scenes...

  13. my first draft is usually by hand

    and as a teacher, i'm not thrilled with common core. i'm sorry, but those in charge don't seem to be approaching education as educators but as politicians and that never works... but we must keep pressing on...

    btw, it cracks me up that you picked a kevin bacon movie, another blog fest participant picked a different even lesser known one - ha ha, poor kevin =)

  14. I have to say that I also disagree with the trend to teach children typing before writing.

    As for my writing by hand, I still paper and pen all of my rough drafts. It just helps my brain form the stories better.


  15. I read the article in Parade Magazine, too. I absolutely agree that writing by hand is better than typing, and that what you write by hand is better internalized. I write all of my manuscripts by hand before I type them into the computer. It's a lot of work, but I find it works best for me.