Can Writing by Hand Boost your Creativity?

These days most of us write using a digital device, be it a PC, laptop, or even phone. Before that, we had word processors, typewriters, and the printing press. Each of these inventions has given us the ability to get more words, to more people, in the quickest possible way. But some argue that writing in this ‘detached’ way limits us and that writing by hand is far better for creativity. Is that really the case?

The Pros

A direct “connection” to the words

A device can be said to create a barrier between you and the paper. Typing words is simply not the same as crafting them with a pen. Your imagination is linked directly to the paper via your hand and so your creativity “flows” in a far fuller sense.

Ideas without deletions

It’s easy to remove a phrase or scene you’re unsure about when wacking stuff down on a digital device. But on paper, there are no backsies. You can erase pencil or whip out the old Tip-ex for pen, but the easiest thing to do is put a line through it and start again. Not pretty, but with the added advantage of not wholly removing your ideas. So on a later edit, you have the option to reinstate it if you decide that it was right after all.

No batteries, no problem

Digital devices have one very clear flaw – they need power. With a pen and paper, there’s no such problem. Pens are easy to stock up on, and a pencil merely needs a sharpener to get going again. Your writing tools are ready whenever and wherever you are. I’ve written entire first drafts before by hand, filling notebooks at work when lugging my laptop around just wasn’t practical.

And the cons

It’s not as quick

I can type much faster than I can write. If you’re the same, you’ll have experienced the frustration that comes from the hand not being able to keep up with the brain. So when you write by hand, the page becomes a bunch of messy scribbles leaping off in various directions. And when it comes to reading back what you’ve written, forget it. You need some kind of cryptic code decipherer to figure it out!

It’s harder to edit

Editing online is easy. You can delete, move things around, jump ahead – basically anything whenever you need to without a hint of mess or fuss. Try this on paper. You end up with a page full of crossings out, arrows and squidged in text that’s barely readable.

You end up repeating yourself

At some point, you’ll need to type up what you’ve written by hand. Which means you’ll end up repeating what you’ve already done. This is both time-consuming and boring.

There are good and bad things about writing in the “traditional” way. It can make you feel more like a writer which is sometimes what you need to remind you that you are one. But personally, I prefer the speed and flexibility of typing.

How about you? Do you write by hand, or type all the way? Let me know in the comments!

Related reads

Is “The Elements of Style” the Only Book about writing you Need?
4 Roadblocks to your Writing – and 4 Ways to Steamroll them!
How to Find Time to Write at Work

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21 thoughts on “Can Writing by Hand Boost your Creativity?

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  1. For non-fiction, I can sit and type. Things flow well and quick. I think this is because I’ve done research & outlining, sometimes not the latter, and the overall piece is already well framed in my head.

    For fiction, I’ve always found handwriting to be better for me. Possibly because I’m a pantser. I tend to write without outlining and doing research as it becomes necessary for the story or worldbuild. Writing it by hand helps things jell somewhat. Then typing what I’ve written serves as a first round of copy editing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting observation Brent, I’d not considered how different types of writing would be impacted by the typing/handwriting divide. I’m a planner as far as both fiction and non-fiction (articles and work stuff) goes, but I can see how handwriting fiction helps you get into the story and characters if you’re ‘pantsing’ it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I use a bit of both. I like to flesh out ideas or questions on paper and then polish it in a type up. But I know what you mean about ending up with a scribble of hieroglyphics and I have awful hand writing anyway. My work colleagues all say my handwritings like that of a doctors!! Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve recently started bringing handwriting back into my practice, Which is good because now I can finally put all those notebooks I’ve been boarding to good use! It won’t ever replace my laptop when it comes to working on manuscripts, but I prefer it when outlining and journaling. There’s something about the tactile experience of writing with a pen to paper that makes me feel like I’m really creating something from scratch.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have just come across your site and like it a lot. I now write by hand only when I have no technology to hand. No I lie, poetry is always by hand. Thanks for following. I hope you enjoy some of my writing. Mike

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Once upon a time, I had notebooks full of first drafts but as technology has got more accessible (I can even write on my mobile), the notepads have become more of a nostalgic treasure rather than my go to tool. Considering what you’ve written, it could be a great way to combat writers block. I loved this article 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed this post very much. I write everything first by hand and then on my laptop. Recently, spontaneously, I started writing with my left hand instead of with my right. For a long time I have felt that perhaps I am actually left handed and not right handed. For instance, long ago in school I would swing the bat in baseball games from the left side of the plate instead of from the right. It felt more natural, and I hit the ball better. Although learning to write with my other hand at age 52 has been challenging and very frustrating at times, I have enjoyed the experience and I think (or hope) I am writing better.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi there! I really relate to this article. People ask me how I write, and then get a weird look on their face when I say that I write everything out longhand, then type it up later. I write MUCH faster than I type, so if I’m trying to get my thoughts down, I pretty much have to go old school. Plus, as mentioned in earlier responses, going back to type up what I’ve written gives me a chance to edit as I go along. Fun article, and thanks for writing it and sharing it with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, glad you liked it! From the comments a fair number of people do write longhand, at least a bit, but writing everything probably puts you in a minority! I can certainly see the advantage to editing as you type up too, going from version 0.0 to 0.1 as it were!

      Like

  8. Great post! I am a totally digitalised poet I am afraid. As I squeeze my writing into when I’m walking to work it is the most practical means of keeping it and editing it. Thanks for sharing! I am a Creative Life Coach and have a poetry blog in case you also have time to look? Today’s post is about being present. Have a good Monday! Sam 🙂 https://peacockpoetryblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/21/getting-better-everyday/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I totally understand needing to squeeze in writing where you can. I write on my phone on the train! I’m always on the lookout for new blogs to follow, so I’ll definitely take a look at yours.

      Like

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