Friday, July 26th, 2019

Handwriting and the Brain


In my (recent) past life as a TA, I’d recommend my Intro to Creative Writing students to write their first drafts on paper, especially if they felt paralyzed by anxiety. Most of my adult life has revolved around writing jitters, but the kids didn’t trust me on this. The day I told one of the writing classes I TA’d that typing was part of my revising process, the response was a giant general eyeroll. I tried to explain that paper is the closest thing to a confidant that we have in the material world (this didn’t help my case, for obvious reasons). You can tell it anything you want, start over, digress, scratch it, crumple it, throw it away, come back to it. I hope you don’t actually treat your friends this way, but you get where I’m going with this. It doesn’t mock you with a flashing cursor in a New Document. Typing on a computer will automatically make the story or message seem more official, publishable. It’s easier to find shallow mistakes like typos, but not the deeper, fundamental issues. Paper is whatever you want it to be, and that takes a lot of the pressure off, so you can just work.

Maya Angelou would lock herself in a hotel room with a legal pad and just write. She had the right idea. Next time I’m stuck, I’ll lock myself in a room with a N°19 Yellow Pad and channel my inner Angelou.
A couple of my students drafted their in-class freewriting exercises by hand that day, and when they gave me their clean, typed versions the following week, the content was more personal, more “complete” than anything they’d handed in before. There’s an immediacy to paper that can’t be replicated and creates interesting results. Not that you didn’t know that already!

Just for fun, I looked up the physical, cognitive, and social effects of writing by hand. This is what I learned:
* It helps with information retention.
* It’s basically a zen garden for your mind.
* It combats aging and cognitive decline by boosting memory.
* It even improves your odds of getting that job.

If you want to give handwriting a try, whether it’s notetaking, journaling, or drafting stories, feel free to browse through our offerings, where you’ll find a notebook or pad for practically every need. Or, if you’re a Rhodia veteran and want to zhuzh up your collection, have you taken a look at our 2019 catalog?

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