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MIHE Blog News, views and insights from Macmillan International Higher Education

Reasons To Write By Hand

by Emma Sue Prince 17th December 2019

It's a reality for most of us that, in daily life, we type more than we write. In this article, Emma-Sue Prince presents 7 reasons to redress the balance and start writing by hand more often.


When’s the last time you wrote anything down?

Chances are it might have been a shopping list or hasty scribble - the reality is we hardly write any more. Although you may not write much by hand any more, there are specific situations when it can be very good to do so. Good writing, whether by hand or not, is needed for all kinds of business communication – from report writing to setting goals, from simple emails to critical writing for essays and analysis.
Writing by hand can boost your productivity and help with setting goals, and taps into a part of your brain that can help you make great decisions!
It may seem that typing on a keyboard is much faster than writing by hand but writing by hand unlocks something in the brain because it is personal and unique to us. The actual process of writing forces your brain to process information in a different way so that you can work your way through an idea or thought and actually write something down.


Seven reasons to write by hand:

1. Writing notes by hand taps into cognitive abilities that enable you to process the information in a different way than if you had written them digitally.

Writing by hand helps rid you of the distractions of the digital world and allows you to express ideas and thoughts much more freely and creatively. Many writers swear by handwritten documents. When typing there can be a tendency to edit as you go along rather than letting your ideas flow. This can be counterproductive for the creative process. With a blank piece of paper, you tend to just write, get your ideas onto paper and leave the editing process until later.

2. ​Pen and paper can allow you to think more freely when doing things such as brainstorming.

You have a blank page, a pen, and no restrictions as to where you can write, allowing you to link things together, circle important points and add side notes wherever makes sense. Many will argue that this can now be done electronically with ease, but the distractions introduced with a computer or tablet can often interrupt your creative flow.

3. Writing things down can clear your mind for higher-level thinking.

Have you ever heard of ‘morning pages’? Julia Cameron, an American teacher, author, artist, poet, playwright, novelist, filmmaker, composer and journalist, claims the secret to a productive day is actually a simple practice. Every morning, take a pen and three blank pages and write down whatever you want to fill those pages. Through doing this you are clearing your head (and your brain!) in preparation for the day’s most important thinking. Another technique to try is simply writing down every task, activity and project you need to address. There’s something about getting these kinds of things out of the brain and onto paper that frees you up for other activities, enables you to find solutions and helps you to get more done.

4. ​Writing helps process emotions.

Writing down what’s on our mind is a great way to work through inner conflict or process your feelings around a particular situation. It’s similar to talking a situation through with a friend, except it’s a useful way of strengthening your self-soothing abilities and enhancing your self-knowledge and awareness.


5. It keeps a record.

Anyone who has ever written a diary or journal knows that reading back through these provides a valuable insight into your thought processes and emotions. When you can look back and see how you’ve navigated your way through a situation this can give you strength and confidence.


6. ​Writing helps you think big.

Writing things down gives you space to think big and aim high. No matter what’s going on in our outside world, when we write things down, we enter a world of possibility. Doing this helps us stay motivated, and it reduces the chance that we fall prey to self-limiting beliefs. (Even if we do, we can keep writing things down to process our feelings!) When we write things down, we have a chance to explore dreams and ambitions that we might not feel safe revealing to anyone else yet. We also have a space to keep track of all our ideas and desires so we can return to them later.


7. ​Write it down, make it happen.

Writing our goals and ambitions down makes it more likely that we’ll achieve them. As with any goals, they are most effective if they are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. These are all variables we can work out and commit to through writing. Writing down our goals is the first step towards making them a reality. It can also help us stay accountable. When you’ve outlined your SMART goal in writing, display it somewhere you can see for an extra shot of motivation.


And now a challenge...

For the next week, try these 2 daily activities to find out how writing things by hand and getting organized can revolutionize your way of working!
  • Try planning your next day in advance on paper and writing by hand. You will create order out of chaos quicker with a list than with any other tool!
  • Create a useful list: before you go to bed this evening, or at the end of your workday write out the six most important things that you can take action on the next day. Unpleasant things should always go to the top of the list and be done first!

Featured image credit: Photo by Free-Photos. Available on Pixabay via the Pixabay license.