In Defence of Handwriting

And typewriters, sort of, but not quite as much.


I’m learning that it can improve many aspects of the craft.

For one, slowing the time between thought and paper creates a greater mental space. One author called it transfiguration, the process of improving sentences before you write them. Same author never achieved the effect with a word processor.

Then there’s the linearity of thought. Typing into a computer affords real-time editing, which capacity trains a recursion in our thinking that hedges better control in a spontaneous flow. Handwriting does the opposite, makes a writer more confident moving sentences forward without the tendency of constantly looking back. This is also where typewriting is slightly better than a WP. Edits are fairly laborious, so the trend is to make less of them.

Let alone, the physical aspect. More of the body is involved, and the interface is a tactile one. Virtual interfaces offer a different kind of creative experience.

Preferences are preferences, but some yield different benefits to others. When it comes to first drafts, the cognitive benefits of handwriting outweigh the conveniences of computers quite objectively. As Stephen King says, Writing is refined thinking. And the relationship goes both ways: one expresses itself through the other. If the tendency is to obsessively change sentences as we write them, the same recursion is developed in our thinking. The straightening-out afforded by handwriting helps the mind to structure thought more clearly.

Second drafts, a word processor can’t be beaten.

It’s no coincidence that so many of the greatest writers handwrite or use old typewriters to this day. And I highly doubt someone like Virginia Woolf would have created such intricate and beautiful sentences in MS Word.

I’m just starting to see these benefits in my own work, especially in the syntax novelty. Better writing isn’t done quickly, after all. If you haven’t tried this approach, highly recommend giving it a shot.




13 responses to “In Defence of Handwriting”

  1. I am a huge fan of handwriting and write letters and notes to people by hand

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Writing letters is a very underappreciated craft these days. Some of the funnest writing to be had in general.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In my early days of blogging I used to handwrite all my drafts. I did find it annoying though when I had to eventually type all the words into my computer. I still work on ideas in pen form.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find that second step good for editing most of the time, but to be fair, the real time editing a word processor affords is a hard appeal to leave aside entirely. Still write more than half that way. Thanks for dropping by Robert.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know if I can still write!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My handwriting is horrible! But I did notice a difference between hand, which is more like sketching, and typing, which is like piano. Handwriting translates into symbols. Typing goes down like notation. Maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Practice! The physical aspect boosts writings catharsis, somehow. Start with letters to people you care about is generally helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree handwriting is best. I remember all those essays I handwrote as a student. There was no way I was going to rewrite a page to accommodate a change of thought. It was a good discipline that has served me well. If I am not near my laptop then I will handwrite my thoughts. I have a special book to write in. It’s nice to look back at what I’ve written; more memories evoked that glancing at a list of file names.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen! Probably ludditism (which, it turns out, is a word that doesn’t earn the red underline from Google) is better for clarity of cognition. Thanks for commenting, Karen :O)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, my handwriting is a mess. It’s completely unreadable.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am afraid not 🙂


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