cursive

Hand vs Computer

Image Courtesy The Medical Leader

Visionary Writing Techniques #08

By John Onorato

I know a way to make your writing even better than it already is.

You just have to do one simple thing. ✅

And I’m about to tell you what that thing is.

After I tell you how to make your writing better than it already is, I’ll share a very personal reason I use this exact tip myself.

Now, I’m sure you’ve read thousands of examples where they “tease” some juicy tidbit (like I just did), then they make you endlessly doomscroll before they let you know what that tidbit is …

… and then what they have to say is so basic, it feels like a complete letdown when they do share the tidbit.

I’m not going to do that, though.

I’m going to share my juicy tidbit here in the first page.

You ready to make your writing even better than it already is?

Read on, then. It’s at the head of the next section, I promise.

About That Secret

If you want to 10X your writing, all you have to do is step away from your computer.

That’s right. All you have to do is step away from the computer.

I did this a year or two ago, and it’s one of the best things I could have ever done for my writing.

All you have to do is step away from your computer, and get some paper.

Get a pen, too. Or a notebook and a pencil. It doesn’t matter. What we’re going to do here is write by hand.

“But John,” I can already hear you wail, “we never learned cursive!”

Really? You didn’t? That’s a serious shortcoming of most modern schooling, in my opinion.

But Why?

Why should you ditch the keyboard for your pre-first drafts?

First off, because writing by hand engages a completely different part of the brain. Writing via typing is great, and at least for me, it’s much faster than writing by hand.

Note that “writing via typing” means “writing on a keyboard.” Given that typewriters are no longer really a thing (unless you’re part of Austin’s own “Typewriter Rodeo“), writing via typing usually means you’re on a computer.

Besides that “different part of the brain” thing, notebooks offer no distractions. Facebook doesn’t bother you when you’re working with a piece of paper.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that as a freelance writer, speed is often of the essence for me. So many of my articles — like this one — are written direct-to-keyboard. But I have developed a pretty good method for keeping my focus where it needs to be.

Still, it’s not a perfect system. Besides, the majority of my Really Good Articles saw their origins in one of my notebooks.

Another benefit is that writing with your own hands helps you retain and use information — even if you never pick it up again later.

See, when you’re writing on a keyboard, you’re basically just transcribing your own thoughts. You’re not really working with them. When we write by hand, we do it much more slowly. Therefore, we end up being more selective, choosing only the most important points to write down and use.

This causes you to craft your content more efficiently.

Writing by hand also causes you to recall information easier. I’m willing to bet you don’t remember many of your friends’ phone numbers, even if you call them frequently. That’s because you’ve typed them into your phone, and the phone remembers them for you. I’d also be willing to bet you can remember phone numbers from your distant past — when you wrote them down by hand.

When writing by hand, you are having, by default, a richer experience than you would at a keyboard. When we are performing a sequenced physical activity that uses muscles and nerves in a complex pattern, our brains love it. Doing that, our brains are awash in rich sensory and motor feedback. And the more feedback we get from an activity, the easier it is for our brains to form and later retain those memories.

Thus, the mere finger-tapping of keyboards offer our brains a much more sparse experience than the complex patterns involved in handwriting.
In other words, keyboards are much less stimulating than moving our hands in the intricate patterns required when writing by hand.

In Conclusion

I’ll close with another reason to write by hand. This is my reason, and it waxes far more personal.

My father writes me letters. (He’s single-handedly saving the Post Office, don’t ya know.) Many of those letters he used to write by hand. So there’s a certain sense of nostalgia for me in there.

Perhaps more importantly, though, as I started to write by hand more often, I observed many similarities between my father’s handwriting and my own. It was all in the loop here and the swash there; as I watched my letters forming on the page, I could see echoes of my father’s writing.

Thankfully, my father is still with us. But the days of him writing much by hand are long behind him. I will always treasure the letters he wrote to me in my own hand.

Maybe that’s a gift you can give your own kin. I invite you to do exactly that. Physical letters, especially those written by hand, will forever occupy a special place in my heart — one that can never be taken over by another activity.

So — to make your writing 10X better, all you have to do is start away from your computer.

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