It seems every time I turn around these days, there is a new app, software, or digital tool to help me manage my creative life. Whether it is a new social media scheduler, writing software, or a to do list app, the tools for us as creatives keep expanding. I’ve tried a lot of different productivity apps and they just don’t work for me. I still do best when I handwrite my to do list. Similarly, I have always brainstormed with pen and paper, refining the ideas into a handwritten outline. Also, I hand edit my own writing and my clients’.
For me, “going analog” and handwriting with my cursive scrawl feeds my creativity and helps my brain organize ideas.
The Handwriting Hack That Changed My Creative Life
The downside of my handwritten notes was that they were scattered across many legal pads with different ones for each project and usually two or three kinds of to do lists. I often couldn’t find a list when I needed it. My life changed a couple years ago when I found the bullet journal method. The bullet journal focuses on the joy and satisfaction of writing things by hand. What made it revolutionary for me is the idea of writing everything in one place from your to do list to projects and brainstorming. The way you find things is simple and brilliant – you number the pages.
The great thing about the bullet journal is that there are no rules. You can adapt the system to whatever works for you. I use a large notebook with wide-spaced lines which easily fit my handwriting. I like to have big pages to fill.
In an informal survey, I’ve noticed that a lot of people still like to hand write their to do list. And that led me to ask why use handwriting in an age where we can dictate and type on our phones and computers? With all of these choices and tools, why are people are still writing by hand? The reasons may surprise you.
Handwriting Helps Your Brain
Handwriting has been shown in multiple studies in the last ten years to improve your brain function. Taking notes by hand aids your memory because you have to synthesize and organize the information, which helps you retain it. The sensory experience of writing – feeling the pen in your hand, hearing the pen scratch on the paper – fire off different parts of your brain that help you remember and create.
All of these studies including a recent one out of Norway, show that cursive has such a positive effect on brain development it’s really puzzling why we have chosen to stop teaching it in our school system. If you were born after 1995 and would like to learn cursive, or have children that you would like to learn cursive, check out this free video course.
Handwriting Helps Your Creativity
When you are brainstorming by hand it easy to let the ideas flow. Write everything down as it comes to you and then take the time to separate the good from the bad. Writing by hand forces your brain to slow down. The act of thinking through what you’re writing makes the words come out differently and sometimes better. It is as if during the time it takes for the words and ideas to travel from your brain to your hand to the paper there is self-editing happening without you being aware. It feels almost magical. As an added bonus, when you transcribe your written draft, you edit as you go, often discovering new ideas.
To exercise your brain and jumpstart creativity, write in cursive every day. Something as simple as your grocery list or signature is enough to reap the brain benefits of handwriting. Next time you want to thank someone, instead of firing off a quick text, try writing a thank you note. You’ll make someone’s day and help your brain.
I can’t write poetry on a computer, man.Quentin Tarantino
A lot of writers innately know the power of handwriting. Here are a few that write their first drafts by hand.
- J.K. Rowling
- Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles books)
- Ernest Hemingway
- David E. Kelly (Ally McBeal, Pretty Little Lies)
- Joe Hill (Horns, Locke & Key)
- Two New York Times Reporters
What is Your Writing Process?
Do you ever write in longhand? If not, next time you’re stuck, why not give it a try? Let me know how it goes.
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