There was a time when I couldn’t write on a computer at all. I could get down endless thoughts with pen and paper—even if trying to read it later was like deciphering an ancient script. My handwriting is terrible. But if I were to sit down at a computer and try to type out what was in my head, I would invariably leave an almost blank screen at the end of an hour. Is handwriting better? For me, it was the only way.
I still have a binder containing more than 300 handwritten college-ruled pages that made up the first draft of my first full-length novel. I have endless notebooks containing scenes, ideas, and chronologically listed plot events. Every entry is an idea that came to me so suddenly or fully that I couldn’t risk it to the mysteriously interruptive quality of a screen.
While I do currently draft my projects using Word, I had to literally train myself in the ability to connect my mind and words to the computer. Sometimes, I still stop in the middle and snatch a notebook to scribble in until all my passion is out. Somehow, it gives me permission to keep going all the way through my idea. It increases my ability to visualize what I’m writing down as I write it. It makes me feel more attached to the incident I’m writing, more present with it, as opposed to being a distant observer or merely the audience in a theatre.
The Handwriting-Creativity Link
As today is National Handwriting Day over here in the United States, it only made sense to look into this odd personal trait of mine. Is it all in my head? Is there science to the benefits of handwriting, or am I just weird?
Turns out, there is plenty of science to explain why handwriting stimulates creativity. In fact, one study went so far as to use “high-tech magnetic resonance imaging” and witnessed how handwriting increases the activity of neurons. That’s right, folks: your brain is literally more active while handwriting than not. Furthermore, studies have even shown that cursive writing in particular seems to improve how the left and right brain work together in the process. WOW.
Are you telling me to give up my computer?
Of course not! When it comes to formatting, editing, or even just being able to read it later, typed manuscripts are indispensable. But if you’re suffering from writer’s block, maybe trading your keyboard for a pencil could be the magic solution. Except it’s not magic. It’s truly science.
Also, this isn’t just about moving your novel along. Handwritten journals are well known to be tools of release—opening the floodgates of articulation, if you will. Simply writing anything at all is literally practice for expression. As any seasoned writer will tell you, the ability to translate our thoughts onto paper is a learned skill. The ability to do so in a way easily understood by the reader, then the ability to do that in a way that creates a picture in their mind, is a much more advanced skill. It only comes by practice—by doing it over and over.
Trying to develop that practice by typing might be like swimming with weights. If you’re struggling to get to a point where writing feels as natural as speaking, buy a notebook. It just might be the cheapest and most useful tool in your writer arsenal. And there are some lovely notebook options in the Moms Who Write shop, by the way.
Is handwriting better?
Well, perhaps that is too subjective a question. As previously mentioned, there are obvious advantages to typed work. But can handwriting make you a better writer? Well, yes. Unequivocally, scientifically, yes. So go try it!
And just maybe, over time, unlocking your creativity through handwriting can be a stepping stone towards creativity on the keyboard. It was for me.
About the Writer: Kathryn Tamburri (@KathrynTamburriAuthor) writes clean YA epic fantasy novels which seethe with slow-burn romance. You can find more of her writing tips on The Devo Blog at KathrynTamburri.com, and learn from her publishing journey by subscribing to her fun author newsletter!