For most of us in marketing, we’ve become so used to using our computers for everything, we have little or no occasion to ever write by hand anymore, save for a Post-It note here and a shopping list there. In fact, cursive is such an old school skill that it’s not even taught in schools any more.
But before you write off writing by hand as unnecessary in today’s modern world, consider the following list. Doesn’t matter how slow or how fast you type, the physical act of writing offers some nifty benefits that we give up when we tap away at our keyboards all the time.
It increases learning comprehension.
Research shows that taking notes by hand helps you remember the material better than when you type it. That’s because the act of writing stimulates the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is what filters information, allowing us to focus on certain things in our environment instead of being overwhelmed by all the stuff around us. The physical act of writing by hand causes your brain to focus more on the words and their meanings, making comprehension stronger.
It more fully engages your brain.
Because it uses more of your motor skills, writing by hand involves more of your brain, which is always a good thing. Keeping your brain more active and engaged increases creativity, slows mental aging, improves memory, and more. Writing by hand, especially in cursive, taps into both sides of the brain (the rational and the creative sides) because of the artistry involved in creating those flowing, loopy shapes.
The act of writing helps us relax and lower anxiety in a couple ways. First, there’s journaling—a practice that helps us clear our minds of stressors, examine our thoughts, and work through problems. On top of that, the physical act of writing forces us to slow down and be more deliberate about what we’re trying to say.
It helps you focus.
Typing on a computer means we’re always just a click or two away from the next distraction—whether it’s email alerts, the news, or a million other things. Writing by hand gives you the freedom to step away from the screen, grab a pad and pen, and go somewhere where you can really focus on your writing, free of distractions. Not only will this help you get your writing done faster, it can improve the quality, too. Plus, training yourself to focus more deeply is a useful skill in all areas of your life.
It helps you write better.
Most people can’t write as fast as they can type. By forcing ourselves to slow down, we’re often better able to organize our thoughts and choose our words. The slower, more deliberate speed of the process—combined with the boost to our brains, creativity, and focus—means that a handwritten piece will often end up less rushed, better organized, and better written overall.
But what does all this mean for us marketers who spend our days in front a computer? How can we take advantage of the benefits of writing by hand? Consider these simple suggestions:
Brainstorm on paper
Need to come up with ideas for a project? Don’t do it at your desk. Instead, go someplace with a pen and paper. Can’t abandon your post? Place your pad on your knee and turn away from your screen.
Write first drafts by hand
Sure, you’ll have to type things into the computer eventually. But instead of going straight for the keyboard, consider writing the first draft of your article, blog post, email, letter, direct mail piece, etc. by hand.
Bring a pad to the meeting
In the habit of typing your meeting notes directly onto your laptop? Switch to paper and pen instead. Odds are, you’ll be more likely to remember what you wrote.
Start a daily journaling practice over your morning coffee that gives you the chance to clear your mind and prepare for the day ahead. Or, write by hand for a few minutes in the evening to help you unwind from a busy day.
So give it a try. In addition to the above benefits, you might discover that the mere act of changing up your routine, approaching your work differently, and engaging your brain and body in a more active way will have a positive effect on your writing, your retention, your creativity…and maybe even your health in general!