Preserving the Art of Writing Longhand

Last updated on March 21st, 2018 at 11:33 pm

Writing with a pen on paperThere are a few things in this world I have a deep reverence for. One is nature. It always leaves me in awe of both its beauty and its intelligence. Nature inspires my writing and my art.

As a writer, I also have great reverence for the written word. Both figuratively and literally. The fact is, writing by hand offers many benefits to mind, body and soul that typing on a keyboard simply does not.

Something happens within you when you take a pen or pencil in hand and begin to write. Handwriting, I believe, represents our unique individuality. It slows you down and offers a chance to reflect as you write. Typed words on a page have no character, revealing little of the human being who wrote them.

When we write by hand we bring the words to earth and engage our full being in the process. Typing on a keyboard keeps the words ‘up there’ in the ethers and is more of a mental process. Writing cursive teaches us about relationships. As each letter joins the next one, we see the relationship it forms and what that feels like. Tying on a keyboard is mechanical and does not engage us on a deeper level.

“The human being becomes unfettered when he writes in the way that he paints or draws, when each letter next to the other becomes something that he draws.” – Rudolph Steiner

Woman writing by hand in her journalHandwriting Speaks its Own Unique Language

In his book, The Missing Ink – The Lost Art of Handwriting and Why it Matters, Phillip Henscher, offers a poignant reminder of how the handwriting of someone can speak volumes, in a way that typed words on a page simply can not. His book ends with an anecdote about his experience of finding a notebook filled with the writings of someone who had recently died.

“It is a telling example of how the very flow and contour of handwriting gives back something of the person who produced it.

Many readers will know what it is to come upon the handwriting of someone they once cared for who is now dead, and to feel the shock of proximity. As much as any photograph, and more than any sound or video recording, handwriting can bring back to us the essential character of a person.

He goes on to say, “Writing this book, I’ve come to the conclusion that handwriting is good for us. It involves us in a relationship with the written word which is sensuous, immediate, and individual. It opens our personality out to the world.”

Handwriting involves us in a relationship with the written word which is sensuous, immediate, and individual. #writing Click To Tweet

A Lesson We Can Learn From Older Generations

Older generations learned how to write in cursive and this was their primary way of written communication. This is one of the big lessons we can learn from the generations that came before us. I feel grateful I learned to write longhand and fear it will become a lost art in a world where technology and keyboards have captured our time and attention.

This is currently a topic of much discussion as it continues to be phased out of early childhood education. The research clearly shows the advantages of cursive writing to the brain and learning. My book Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie was actually written longhand on large unlined pads of paper. Putting pen to paper accesses a different part of our being, allowing our creative self to flow onto the page.

Research clearly shows the advantages of cursive writing to the brain and learning. #cursive #learningClick To Tweet

Michael Gelb, creativity expert and author of Creativity on Demand agrees that stream of consciousness writing is one of the most essential and powerful tools for getting your creative juices flowing. When pecking away at a keyboard, this rarely happens. My experience exactly!

Writing by Hand Stimulates How the Brain Learns

A piece in the NY Times reported research that shows “Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

Children learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand. #children #learning #writingClick To Tweet

A study at Indiana University led by psychologist Karin James showed that when children write by hand, three areas of the brain become activated-– the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex. There was no activation in these areas when children just typed or traced letters. Something for parents and educators to take note of!

A 2013 study out of Princeton University found that students who took notes by hand—as opposed to on a laptop—had a stronger conceptual understanding of the material. When they needed to recall the material, they were better at actually applying what they’d learned.

Research confirms that writing by hand is simply healthier and has a more positive impact on how we learn.

Give Lasting Memories—Write by Hand

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to write. By hand. Sending handwritten cards or notes or letters to people who I care about has always seemed like an important way to communicate how I feel about them. So often people tell me years later that what I wrote touched them and they actually kept the card I had sent them. A great affirmation of the power of the written word.

When I recently heard about Elana Zaiman’s new book “Forever Letter” it reminded me of my experiences and also my training in writing someone’s biography. In a recent interview she explained: “A Forever Letter is a heartfelt letter we write to the people who matter to us most to communicate our values, wisdom, appreciation, hopes, and love, to ask for forgiveness, and to forgive. Our intention: that our letters or the messages that our letters impart are meaningful enough for our recipients to want to hold onto them forever.” This mirrored my own experience in handwriting from-the-heart messages to others.

Person writing with a quill pen on paperWriting Connects Us to the People We Care About

The ‘Forever Letter’ was inspired by the centuries-old Jewish tradition of the “ethical will,” a letter parents would write to their children to pass on their values.

Connecting with the people we love and care about is one of the most important things we can do. To connect in writing, to put ourselves on the page is not only a gift for we who write (to enable us to reflect on ourselves and our relationships), but also for the people to whom we are writing (who receive a hug in written form).

Being Conscious of What We Write

We live in a world where people hide behind their keyboards and often spew out words without considering how they will impact the person they are directed at either in the short or the long term. I try to imagine those people sitting down and handwriting those same words with the intent of physically sending them to the person. My guess is most off-the-top-of-the-head words would never be sent! There is something to be said for stopping to consider the impact words can have before we speak them or write them! What do you think?

There is something to be said for stopping to consider the impact words can have before we speak them or write them! #writingClick To Tweet

Why Writing by Hand Still Matters

Writer Mary Gordon sums up why writing by hand, putting pen to paper, has such a powerful impact. She rejoices in the grounding physicality of penmanship and how writing by hand ignites our creativity.

Writing by hand is laborious, and that is why typewriters were invented. But I believe that the labor has virtue, because of its very physicality. For one thing, it involves flesh, blood and the thingness of pen and paper, those anchors that remind us that, however thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.

Food for thought perhaps next time you sit down behind a keyword. Why not start your day and ignite yourself by picking up a pen and writing just for the joy of it. Maybe this is a reason journalling is so widely popular because it encourages us to do just that.

Start your day and ignite yourself by picking up a pen and writing, just for the joy of it. #writing #joyClick To Tweet

My hope is we all commit to keeping the art of writing by hand alive and that younger generations continue to learn it. It matters to their future development and perhaps to the future of our humanity too.

Do you still write by hand? Do you notice a difference in how you experience it vs. writing on a keyboard?

Beverley Golden

About Beverley Golden

Beverley Golden is a writer, storyteller, peacenik and health & vitality consultant, who loves testing unconventional ways to shift paradigms in the playing fields of health and wellness, storytelling and creativity as a path to world peace. Her passion is turning the “impossible” into the possible, using her own experiences with a lifetime of health issues, to inspire and support others to live their life to the fullest.

You're invited to a Complimentary Health Consultation, starting with the True Health Assessment that offers a customized personalized snapshot of how healthy you are in the areas of lifestyle, heredity and nutrition. Contact me to get started!

52 Comments

  • Bob Lee says:

    Thanks for writing on that. Nowadays the young generation is always taping on the mobiles, laptops, and tabs, and they never try to write anything. The beauty is in the handwritten letters and the postcards are now a past. The pens are used only for signatures nowadays.

    • Glad you appreciated this post about the value of writing longhand, Bob. I agree with everything you are saying. There is no way to replace the connection we get from a handwritten note or letter, as mechanical keyboard typing, just can not compare. I still write longhand and feel the many people who journal daily, are in their own way, keeping handwriting alive! Thanks for adding your voice to this important conversation.

  • Matsepo says:

    Love writing by hand, it makes things special, that why I still write letters😘

    • Love that you still write letters by hand, Matsepo! It does make the experience for both the writer and the receiver very special indeed. 🙂

  • Julia says:

    What an interesting article, Beverley. While I love the convenience of my computer for editing things I’ve written, I do all of my note taking and personal exploration by hand, and also love to give and receive handwritten letters.I found the research you shared on this very interesting, and especially loved the Phillip Henscher quote. Thank you!

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts on writing by hand, Julia! I agree with you that handwriting is a much different experience than writing on a keyboard, as convenient as that is. I also love to give and receive handwritten letters or cards and the quote by Phillip Henscher sums up, at least for me, why we all relate so deeply to something written by hand.

  • This is a great discussion. I do at times long for a pen and paper and feel frustrated when I only have a phone or laptop to type on. Kinesthetics are important. A smooth pen in hand and on the paper matters to me too. I have taken to speaking and recording as an alternative plus it’s neater than when I write quickly and can’t read my own handwriting later on.
    I took a beginners Tibetan Language course some years ago. The author of the primer recommended practicing writing the alphabet on a very large pad of paper or even on a sheet of newspaper because writing that large your hands would have to cross over the center line of your body and engage both hemispheres of your brain.
    Thank you for this blogpost.

    • Thanks for your really thoughtful comment, Miché. I am not surprised to hear that the idea of writing by hand is encouraged in language courses, as like you mention, it does activate both hemispheres of the brain, contributes to learning and retention and is overall a more heart-centred way to express ourselves. I agree that technology has its advantages when it comes to speed and clarity of reading, however, it will never match the benefits that writing by hand gives us.

  • Teressa says:

    Absolutely agree, writing is a manual form of thinking. I love communicating from the heart. Very thoughtful article. Thank you for sharing Beverley!

    • Thank you so much Teressa! Writing is one of the best ways to communicate from the heart. Appreciate hearing you enjoyed it.

  • Millen Livis says:

    Such a great topic and beautifully shared. Thank you, Beverley. Many coaches promote journaling as a power tool for elevating your awareness, dumping your busy mind and writing your dream life into “existance”. And what is interesting, people journal by handwriting, not by typing on the computer… That’s because “writing is connected to the movement of the heart.” Lovely. Thank you – great reminder…”

    • Thank you for your lovely words, Millen! Yes, writing by hand is so key to getting in touch with ourselves, to have the moments to stop and reflect on what is happening inside of ourselves. I thought about how journaling is always done writing by hand too. For that reason alone it is a powerful elixir for all who spend time doing it. Yes, writing is connected to the movement of the heart! Who wouldn’t want to be connected to our heart? Thank you!

  • Lorii Abela says:

    Handwriting can definitely be a thing of the past soon. Even the doctors put their diagnosis in their tablets. The transfer of medical information is all done electronically…that includes the electronic signature. We would all just have implanted chips and eye scanners to have ourselves identified. Kinda scary but this is becoming more and more of a reality.

    • Thanks for your input on this topic, Lori. I agree with you that handwriting is certainly becoming a lost art. Technology seems to make life faster, although knowing the benefits of writing by hand, I am not sure it is necessarily a positive one. It is all very scary to think we are losing so many of the elements that make us human beings.

  • Beverley, I love that you shared the benefits of writing by hand. There is something powerful and creative that happens when you put pen to paper and share your thoughts.
    My granddaughter taught herself cursive writing as her school was no longer teaching it. She wrote beautiful stories that I’ve kept as a keepsake of her creativity.
    I also heard a TED talk about the impact writing letters had on younger people when they reread the letters from a parent or elder. It became a way to remember those loved ones and to better understand them.
    Beautiful post.

    • Kudos to your granddaughter for being proactive and teaching herself how to write by hand, Claudette! She will greatly benefit from that throughout her life. It’s lovely to have her stories as a keepsake and to have the chance to feel her essence when you re-read them. I wonder if that TED talk was from the woman who wrote Forever Letter, as it sounds like these young people who read letters from their elders, had the exact reaction as she talked about in her book. My hope is that young people will be able to read handwritten letters in the future, if they have never learned how to write themselves. Thanks for sharing these wonderful examples of the power of the handwritten word. I appreciate it!

  • Beverley, I recall when a section of one of my college courses was devoted to copywriting. We were told that if we really wanted to become good at it, we should study a bunch of successful direct-response letters. Really study them, which included writing each one out longhand two to three times. We were to feel the tempo of the writing and try to improve on them and develop our own style.

    • What an amazing example of an exercise that illustrates the importance of writing by hand, Rachel. Thank you for sharing this. It must have been wonderful to actually write out the samples and then to study them to feel the flow, the tempo and maybe a bit of the essence of the person who write them. It sounds like an incredible way to get in touch with not only good writing, but with yourself.

  • Cathy Sykora says:

    What a great article! Beverley, I believe in writing with pen and paper for memory as well as clarity and growth of thought. I love this. I journal every night just for that reason. Thank you for this.

    • Thanks so much Cathy! Yes, writing by hand is great for our memory, our clarity and allowing the thoughts to reveal themselves in a slower flow. Happy to hear you are also a journal writer and that it brings we the things that typewriting simply cannot!

  • Cheryl says:

    An awesome approach, and a mountain of information that resonates with my feelings for writing. Perhaps this is another reason why journalling brings us closer to our true self. It seems that with less apparent ‘time’ in this busy technological age with social media, cell phones, apple watches….. we are all in a hurry. We are losing the connection to our true self, and community. I loved reading your valuable perspective based on your heart and on facts <3

    • Thanks so much Cheryl! It sounds like you are also a big supporter of writing by hand and yes, journalling seem to be the ideal way to keep it alive. When we hold a pen in our hand and put words on paper, we are connecting to a deeper part of ourselves and although we may not be able to express the difference, it is usually shown by what we write. It always seems different to me then when I write on a keyboard. Yes, technology is making life easier, however, we are losing that connection to our true selves. <3

  • Robin says:

    Hi Beverley,

    Wonderful post! I am a huge fan of writing by hand. I didn’t think of it as being a “heart action” until I read this. When I think of hand writing in cursive, my grandfather comes to mind. He had such beautiful handwriting and must have practiced for hours as a young boy. It was amazing!

    I agree! It is a shame that children today are not being taught this art.

    • What a lovely memory of your grandfather, Robin! It is so wonderful to hear that a man had beautiful handwriting and interesting that you remember that about him. Writing by hand does connect the heart, to the hand, to the page. That is why it is sad to think that future generations will not know how to do that and will miss all the benefits cursive offers. Hopefully some of us can rally parents and grandparents to encourage them to teach cursive to the kids in their lives.

  • Teresa Salhi says:

    It never occurred to me that handwriting could go away – I sure hope not. I am such a believer too that it is connected to the heart. The only way I can get my personal journaling done is by handwriting. And when I write content for my programs, I often write them in longhand on paper first.I do need to eventually translate to another format in most cases but it just flows from me so much better. I am making a note right now to handwrite some cards and letters and put in the mailbox..been wanting to for a while and you have nudged me to do so. Thanks for the lovely message.

    • For those of us who grew up writing by hand, it is almost unimaginable that it could go away, Teresa. I am also shocked that it is being phased out of early childhood education! What a mistake that is for our future generations. I think personal journalling is brilliant in that it asks us to write by hand. It makes little sense to do our journalling on a computer. It’s wonderful to hear that you write your programs by hand and then enter them in the computer. Handwritten notes and cards, in my experience at least, are so appreciated by the recipients. Happy you are putting that on your list. It’s good for you and for those who receive them!

  • Suzie Cheel says:

    love this especially being connected to the heart. I start my day with pen and paper and love it . This is such a wonderful reminder as to why journaling is so powerful and makes me want to write a letter or two, thank you xxoo

    • I agree with you Suzie! So manly people do not really consider that writing is connected to accessing our heart and soul and that is what shows up on the page when you write long hand. Yes, journaling is such a powerful way to express ourselves and it does ask us to engage and write by hand. Hope you went out and wrote a letter or two. It’s good for you and for the people who receive your them. xo

      • Suzie Cheel says:

        I didn’t them but I am going to tomorrow and post on Monday. I will use my Faux Gold Fountain pen too, thanks for the nudge xxoo

        • Those will be beautiful notes once you do write them, Suzie! Love the Faux Gold Fountain pen as an instrument to share your love. xo

  • Reba Linker says:

    What a fascinating topic and article, Beverley. Yes, I know exactly what it is to find a loved one’s handwriting and feel that fullness of their presence. That is so very true. I also really resonated with the idea that “writing by hand ignites our creativity.” There is something so personal and tactile about putting pen to paper and creating not just a string of words, but also a string of shapes that expresses our mood and personality. Beautiful post!

    • Thanks for your lovely comment and reflection on your own experiences, Reba. It sounds like you are a staunch supporter of the art of writing by hand and appreciate how it ignites your own creativity. You truly get the essence of how writing creates its own etheric flow, one we see by the letters strung together in their own musical forms. It’s wonderful to hear how much this post resonated with you. Thank you!

  • Tamuria says:

    It would be so sad if handwriting became a forgotten art, Beverley. I still love to write things by hand (though even I have trouble reading it sometimes) as it helps me to clarify thoughts and to remember things.

    • I completely agree Tami! It seems it is up to us who love writing by hand and who know how healthy it is for us, to encourage younger generations to make sure not to abandon it and to make sure to learn it. Let’s hope that happens.

  • Lori English says:

    Beverley,
    I really agree that Long hand is how we were taught and you are able to see your work a lot clearer and focused. A good article. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Lori English

    • Thanks so much for your support, Lori. It sounds like you agree that we all are better served when we know how to write by hand, because of how it allows us to focus and be clearer in the thoughts we share.

  • Beverley, I loved reading this and love seeing the pen! I bought a friend a Quill Pen for Christmas and was delighted at meditative quality, the intention and the intuitiveness writing by hand gives. I’ve been journaling (by hand) for over 40 years. I love having different parts of me showing up from the writing and and how my handwriting changes with my mood and with what part of me surfaces. I have found that after so many years of this, I now can channel the same parts of myself on the keyboard, but love texture of my journals, my pens, and stepping away from the computer. Thanks for this beautiful blog!

    • Thank you for your insightful comment and for sharing your own experiences writing by hand, Candess. It is interesting to read that you are highly aware of the different parts of yourself that surface when you write by hand and that you can access those on a keyboard now. I know you will agree that writing by hand is still the preferred way, knowing all of the benefits it offers. You sound like you are a strong supporter for all of us to learn to write by hand.

  • Jess says:

    Hi Beverley,

    So many good points in this post! I love writing by hand. It’s slow, my hand and arm get sore but it’s so much more meaningful.

    I Journal to record my life and make my future happen the way I want it to through creative writing and planning…the kind of thoughts that just don’t seem to come if I’m typing.

    It’s really sad that hand writing is being phased out. It’ truly is an art, a tool to reach into our subconscious and its like our fingerprints…no two people write the same.

    Your point about people likely not writing the mean things online would likely not happen if they had to write it out long hand. So true.

    Thank you for such a meaningful post in defense of this dying art.

    • Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment, Jess! I agree with everything you write and appreciate your spot-on observations. It’s great to hear that you are also a supporter of writing by hand and see the incredible value it brings to those of us who do.

      It is sad that handwriting is being phased out, as I think the younger generation will lose big time if they don’t learn it. I also agree with you that if people had to write out by hand, the things they bang out on a keyboard…many of those things would not get written or shared.

      I appreciate your passion for the dying art of writing by hand is and how beneficial it is to keep it alive and well.

  • webly says:

    I share your feeling about long handwriting. I still do every day when I am journaling also when I take online courses, I write my notes. I write when goal setting. There is something to connects your brain to actually writing the words. I love writing my favorite quotes or bible verses. It registers more when I write it. This is an art that is not as popular as it used to be when I was growing up. Even my son’s school has moved away from writing. Now everything is done on computers.

    • It’s sad to think that the younger generation isn’t learning to write by hand, Webly. I hope you are encouraging your son to learn, especially hearing how much you love and appreciate writing by hand. Journalling and writing notes during courses or lectures, is something I also do all the time. I seem to learn and retain things when I write them down by hand too.

  • Krystal says:

    Hey Beverley! Thanks for writing this post. I, too, am a big fan of writing! I actually keep a journal and many many other things in written form. Recently, I’ve taken to writing on brightly colored bits of paper and posting them on my walls!

    • Thanks Krystal! Happy you enjoyed this post and that you are also a big fan of writing by hand. It’s great to keep a journal and to record our thoughts there. I often wonder how many younger people still do that. Love the idea of writing on brightly coloured bits of paper and putting them up around you. Fun!

  • Andrea says:

    Somehow my handwriting has devolved to something worthy of a medical school degree. I take lots of note by hand but, even when I re-write them, it’s still not pretty. If I sound like I envy beautiful handwriting, it’s because I do.

    When writing posts or working on manuscripts, I prefer a keyboard — when things are flowing, it helps me keep up.

    Thanks for an informative and thoughtful post.

    • I completely relate to your comment about how your handwriting has devolved, Andrea! Although mine isn’t as bad as a doctors, I feel sad knowing how much I loved writing by hand and how people would comment on what lovely handwriting I had. I also love beautiful handwriting and know it truly is an art.

      I also write much more frequently on a keyboard, but I know that if I wrote by hand, perhaps a different part of my soul would emerge. The keyboard is fast, however, it is still very mechanical. Thanks for your kind words. I am happy to hear you found this post informative and thoughtful.

  • I cannot imagine not being able to write in my journal in longhand. It would somehow take the soul out of it. I hope the day will never come when a physical ailment, like arthritis, keeps me from feeling and seeing my soul pour out on the paper

    • I agree with you, Barb. Not being able to write by hand would be troublesome to me as well. Our soul is expressed when we write by hand. Hopefully you will be able to keep writing without any interruption, so your soul can pour out on the page.

  • Tarah says:

    What a great article Beverley! I love how you shared this information in such a beautiful way:) Thank you!

    • Thank you Tarah! I am happy you enjoyed the info and research about writing by hand that I shared in this post.

  • It didn’t even occur to me that handwriting is connected to the heart, but I believe that’s true. I have long known that writing things down — particularly when you use pencil — that your retention of that information is much greater. That’s one of the reasons why I use a paper planner…it helps me recall appointments…or at least niggles at the back of my brain to make me look at my planner! My problem with handwriting is that it has deteriorated to the point where I sometimes don’t understand what I’ve written!

    • Yes, writing by hand is a heart action, Jackie. I also experience that writing things down, by hand, it is retained and accessible when we want it. I also use a paper planner and write things down as much and as often as I can. I also agree with you, that my handwriting is definitely deteriorating and that is troubling to me, especially as I know how important it is to our health and wellbeing.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge