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October 18, 2010


I keep a handwritten journal in part because I'm convinced writing by hand exercises a different side of my creativity than writing on a keyboard does. It's not that my handwritten writing is better; it's just a different skill.

For me, I think typing always feels like "work": the things I type are typically things I'll share with others, so I need to "get things right." My journal-scribbles, on the other hand, are just for me, so writing by hand automatically feels freer, looser, and less "obligatory."

I require my first-year writing students to keep nature journals, which means they have to draw roughly once a week. I tell them I'm not an artist or an art teacher, and I show them my doodles as proof. For me, nature journaling isn't about being "good at drawing" but about SEEING. Simply noticing something requires one kind of looking, as does snapping a digital photo...but the kind of seeing it takes to draw something is different: deeper, slower, and more intentional.

I couldn't agree more, and those students are lucky to have you as a teacher, Lorianne. Thanks for the original link!

I've moved from drafting my poems on scraps of paper, to composing on-screen via keyboard [because I loved how my words look like real text!], and now back to writing drafts in a notebook and then typing them up for my final draft/s. I just like how my hand connects to my words.

Of course sometimes it's hard to decipher my writing but that's okay, I think. :-)

Swings and roundabouts, as they say here.

I've just re-started journalling by hand after an absence... and oh my. A) My handwriting has suffered b) there's no irritating spellchecker underlining words it doesn't like, WIN! I'm planning on keeping this up and interspersing it with sketches like I used to. I have no idea why I stopped, but yarn may have been involved...

I learned to draw during zoology labs, but I never became more than moderately competent. The lack of practice since then means I've lost the skill.

On the other hand (so to speak), I write every day by hand with a fountain pen and also do a substantial amount of writing via a keyboard (I've recently been using Writemonkey or Q10 to write initial drafts with as few distractions as possible; the editing comes later). The processes are substantially different, and while the WSJ article has certainly created much interest, it barely scratches the surface of the topic. I've been thinking about it for quite a while now — perhaps it's time to collect my thoughts into a blog post... ;^)

I still remember the experience of writing my first short story by the pond at my college campus. I remember the breeze of the day and the blue notebook I was writing in, and the feel of my hand moving across the perfect texture of the paper.

The habit of writing longhand--even an eight hundred page (unpublished) novel--persisted until a couple of years ago until editors an other writers convinced me to join the digital age. It took a while for my brain to adapt. It was use to timing its ruminations to the slow rhythm of my hand, but eventually I got the hang of it.

Little did I know what I was losing! Now when I try to take out a notebook and return to my old way of working, the brain seems to have forgotten the path back. Too slow! it complains. Too laborious! it whines. I can't tell you how much I miss it.

I love this post. It is a topic close to my heart. I've always enjoyed writing with hands. Back in those days in Malaysia when I was in primary (elementary) school, curvsive writing was in the syllabus. We attended the class twice a week and used fountain pen with Parker Ink.
After all these years I still write a one or two pages letters to my sibllings, nieces and nephews back in Malaysia (and getting discouraged too). Except for my big sister KN and my niece MN the rest write back to me with an email:
Received your letter. Everybody is fine here.
If they ever wrote back.
I miss the act of opening the envelope, take out the letter, carefully unfolded the letter and read the content of the letter line by line. Ohhhh....I miss that.
Thank you Beth for sharing this lovely entry.

I never could learn cursive, and it left me with a deep sense of inferiority, though I printed voluminous journals for many years, and people eventually even told me my "writing" was beautiful. "It's not writing," I'd apologize. "It's printing." My son also has doggedly resisted cursive, prints awkwardly when he must, and much prefers to keyboard.

It's always seemed a bit odd to me, because I'm acutely aware of the beauty of letters, and can spend happy hours contemplating catalogs of typefaces; I've learned a number of alphabets for the sheer pleasure of it. Still I feel more like an accomplished lip reader than like someone who can really hear.

I have a suspicion that I write a little better first drafts when I use a pen; but that's more than counterbalanced by how time consuming it is to revise with one. I typically revise blog posts for days after I've posted them, just because it's so easy to do so.

I write by hand anytime I am doing something creative, like poetry. But I also do simple things by hand, such as keeping a running grocery list or a to-do list. I wonder if my preference for handwriting over technology is ingrained. I have tried to keep my lists, for instance, on devices, but am never successful. When I first began to work, there were not computers on every desktop, just dumb terminals. Using a paper calendar just seems...right.

I'm an addicted list maker with scraps of paper with handwritten notes everywhere. I write about my art processes and ideas in my sketchbook/notebook. Sometimes I write out an outline for a blog post. When traveling I try to write a bit of a travel journal, but have never been much of a journal keeper otherwise. I think university killed my formerly nice handwriting and lack of practice since the advent of computers has only made it worse. Handwritten letters are rare, and difficult with my terrible handwriting now. Even sketching has been less frequent but today I did my first sketch in the lovely little book you gave me, Beth!

I used to have a very nice hand. We were taught with the Palmer handbooks, and many Americans my age have a very similar handwriting because we used this book. But now I just print. The only writing I do any more is my signature.

These comments are so fascinating, thank you all! Hattie's sparked a particular memory: my grandmother (an elementary schoolteacher) taught me to write using the Palmer method and I still have one of those red pen-holders, though the workbook has vanished. My own handwriting changed over time. I do still write cursive, but I'm never very pleased with how it looks on the page. When we were moving, I found a lot of letters written to me by my grandmother, my great-aunt, and my mothers, all of whom had beautiful handwriting, and I just pored over the letters, marveling at how even and lovely the writing was!

Beth, As an expansion of the Wall Street article, you might be interested in a book called, "The Hand," by Frank R. Wilson, a neurologist, who feels the structure of the hand in coordination with the brain, shaped evolution in areas such as psychology, neurology, linguistics, and creativity.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.