Over the years I’ve observed how effective computer writing tends to be. Prior to undergrad, I was nearly exclusively handwriting.
I took a picture some years back of how many journals piled up from the notes and full-length pieces. Quite the collection. [Can no longer find it.]
Thinking about it now, handwriting wasn’t a long process. I’d simply take the paper out and go at it for extensive periods. The smartphone was just around the corner, there was no YouTube or Instagram or 4G. The distraction potential wasn’t any less, just a different form.
Then during undergrad and using the computer more often for coursework, I developed the habit of computer writing what I handwrote, then printed out those pages after saving them as Word docs.
My hand files gradually became digital files, accumulating some 1,000+ pieces of many types: poetry, short stories, fuller-length stories, uncategorized writing, brainstorms, essays, journalistic-style.
This wasn’t a concept I learned from someone; it was just intuition and common sense: if I retained the work, I could always return to it in the future, augment, edit, improve or go in a different direction. Much easier to do on the computer.
This save-all-writing habit was useful even for Email correspondence I deemed professional enough to keep during my time in Student Government.
Just like ideas that don’t ever make a page, if actually captured on paper, we could see how much we think about and could explore deeper. This experience leads me to conclude that people don’t really have writer’s block, just a challenge with capturing what’s already floating in the mind.
When I see these past pieces then look at my writing today, I could see the planted seeds, the Whys behind my current style.
You may also experience this, going back to older writing and wondering, “You wrote that?” I was quite impressed with the earlier writer.
Interestingly, I took only 3 formal writing courses in my lifetime. A professor I had for each of them Emailed me a warning-compliment to not coast on the talent. He foresaw my writing potency early on and encouraged me to not allow it [and other gifts in general] to just perform at the mediocre level with the convenience of getting by.
I still have that Email to this day. Meaningful.
Computer & Handwriting – A Tradeoff?
With ease of computer use I recognize a tradeoff.
Reliance on computer writing to the neglect of handwriting can cause penmanship to deteriorate; my handwriting wasn’t neat to begin with, and with time I noticed my clarity started to worsen.
It was imperative for me to maintain a long-form handwriting habit so it didn’t fade away.
I always wrote in the journal, small notes here, maps or diagrams there, but the long-form such as essays and blog posts were left for the computer.
Just like any other physical exercise, the nervous system learns to “remember” the movements and this creates increased physical harmony as the movements program in the subconscious, or become “second nature” as some people say. We enter “in the moment” more seamlessly. The same thinking applies to handwriting.
I also noticed a change in patience with handwriting.
Computer writing speed is superior, and can be quite enjoyable depending on the keyboard [I have affection for the newly-designed keyboard on the MacBook Pro; it’s lighter, lights up and has this subtle sound with every keystroke that speaks professional to me], so comparing handwriting to this creates a mental frame of “too slow,” generating the impatience.
Ideas may flow faster than the hand can match, so I recognized the training is in cultivating the mind to slow down to match the hand. Handwriting then becomes more intentional, and with more intention it becomes more spiritual. Additionally, there’s an abundance of data to show handwriting’s elevating effects. Check out the artistic infographic here.
Does a writer have to really trade one for the other? No. There can be a merging, the best of both worlds to increase efficiency and all of the wonderful benefits conveyed by working with the Art.
By its nature, writing is a metaphysical act and a writer can amplify this access by tightening the union between computer and handwriting.