Those of us who make a living writing online have probably developed the ability to type nearly in our sleep in order to get our work done faster. With a consistently busy schedule of writing most of the week, I’ve developed the ability to type mostly accurately at 75 words-per-minute to a point where any idea can be typed onto digital paper within seconds rather than hunting and pecking. Heaven forbid anyone wanting a career in this field and coming from the old school of writing by hand and not knowing how to type at a highly productive level.
Then again, perhaps those of us who no longer write by hand are at a disadvantage based on new studies showing how handwriting helps the brain, particularly in students. The New York Times did a piece about new studies on handwriting and how scientists are discovering the benefits to kids in retaining information when they learn to print by hand and write in cursive. It’s a new call for schools to continue teaching handwriting and not just educate kids on a computer keyboard.
Most of society would agree with this because we still need our next generation to learn how to at least sign their signature on official documents. While some might argue even digital signatures will allow us to never pick up a pen again, should we make an effort to write by hand once in a while so we don’t forget entirely?
Also, can there be intellectual benefits in adults who grew up writing by hand, then promptly eliminated it from their lives when having careers writing on computer keyboards?
The Rare Few Who Still Write Everything By Hand
There were reports once that TV producer David E. Kelley wrote all his scripts for his TV shows out by hand. These were later transcribed into more professional format later, though it’s easy to remember how prolific he was in his (mostly) legal TV shows. His 1990s series “Picket Fences” alone was a near classic and apparently all written in hand while away from a work desk. This was before the thin laptop era, so it perhaps makes sense that writing by hand was more workable.
From past reports, he still does this and apparently still churns out scripts much faster this way. He may be the only professional writer in Hollywood who writes by hand, which might also tell you a lot about his intelligence level. With far too many screenwriting and teleplay writing software helping you fill in the creative blanks, it may explain why scripts have suffered so much in the movies in recent years.
But those of us who grew up with handwriting and then transitioned into writing on computers regularly might be a strange breed that needs some brain retraining. Admittedly, I haven’t written by hand in probably more than five years other than to sign my name on checks or documents. Even short notes to people or to myself have been written out on the computer and then printed based on my constant work on a keyboard. It’s a pattern that probably doesn’t sound healthy, especially when excessive typing can bring on carpal issues (which I ward off with numerous breaks).
So should those of us who grew up with perfect penmanship practice writing out a full document by hand again to see if we can still write legibly? At the very least, it’s worth writing personal notes by hand to show more of a personalization and regardless of how well our penmanship looks now. When I tried writing something in full not long ago by hand, I could tell that it wasn’t near as legible as it was when still in high school. That isn’t to say it looked like a doctor’s prescription handwriting either.
While I wouldn’t write a full article like this one by hand, we’re probably better off writing everything else that way to help restore the cerebral benefits. Don’t be surprised to see this addressed in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie eventually where handwriting is completely forgotten in earth’s population and we only write by keyboard, by thought, or by voice dictation. Once those all become suddenly unavailable, communication might become impossible, especially when everyone somehow loses their voice all at the same time.