Writing by hand, or typing: when are you most creative?

writing by hand

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

According to this story from the New York Times, “research suggests that writing by hand allows [students] to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.”

The article, entitled “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” goes on to say:

The researchers found that the initial duplication process mattered a great deal. When children had drawn a letter freehand, they exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated in adults when they read and write: the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex.

By contrast, children who typed or traced the letter or shape showed no such effect. The activation was significantly weaker.

That’s troubling, especially considering how the emphasis in schools has shifted dramatically away from handwriting in favor of typing. Granted, learning computer skills at such a young age probably activates a whole other part of the brain — but still, can’t we be teaching handwriting AND typing? I mean, kids are smart, and their brains are like sponges!

How does the way you write affect your creative process?

Anyway, the article got me thinking about creative writing. If HOW you write (typing vs. handwriting) affects the way you process and synthesize information, then it also probably affects WHAT you write when you sit down to tell a story or compose a poem.

I write both ways, on computer and on paper, and have found that the results are very different. When I compose in Word, my poems tend to be more punchy and paratactic, more concerned with the way the phrases sound against one another.

In other words: they make less “sense” and more music. When I write by hand, there tends to be a more plainspoken tone of voice, longer lyric lines, and a clearer narrative — all of which make me concentrate on how syntax and logic unfold or complicate one another at the same time.

What’s the difference in our writing styles?

I don’t know what accounts for the stark difference between styles; it just seems to happen that way. Obviously while I’m typing my brain is firing differently than it does when I’m writing with a pen.

Have you noticed that kind of difference in your own writing? Which do you prefer? Has one method of writing led you to a style or process that feels more authentic, or at least more rewarding?

Let us know in the comments below: do you prefer typing or writing it out by hand?

Image via ShutterStock.com.

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  1. I’m thinking now that I’m using both types of writing, too. I prefer to take notes and sketch on paper – formulate sentences, form a structure, write down a few types of synonyms and any phrases that seem funny to me. And in Word, I type finished text, structured and coherent. So it turns out that paper is my field of creativity, where the best ideas are generated, the Word file is the podium for those ideas.
    Just recently I read an interesting article about the benefits of writing by hand for creativity, and I completely agree with it: https://leadgrowdevelop.com/the-strong-benefits-of-writing-by-hand-and-how-it-increases-productivity/ And your experience only confirms it. I probably like handwriting even better, it’s more personal. But in today’s world, typing takes precedence.


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