Remember when we used to handwrite things, like cards, homework, and essays?
The importance of handwriting wasn’t even in question.
It was a necessary means to an end.
The other day I found a diary I kept in elementary school, where I waxed lyrically about tests and sleepovers and complained about my parent’s refusal to buy me a horse.
I remember in college my biggest struggle during finals was that my hand would cramp up from all the endless essay writing.
My lecture notes were the most popular to copy because they were so visually appealing, with graphics, block letters, and bullet points.
I prided myself on the beauty……quite the foreshadowing of my career in content marketing, eh?
We wrote with a pen or pencil.
And didn’t think twice about it.
Handwriting was a key component of how we communicated.
But now….the importance of handwriting for mere communication has lost its place.
We don’t need it as much anymore.
And we don’t use it.
Take a moment to think about the last time you actually hand-wrote something—other than an address on an envelope, or maybe a quick scribble or grocery list.
Do We Need Handwriting?
The other day I decided I wanted to start to journaling.
I got about two paragraphs in and stopped.
My hand hurt so freaking bad.
My writing muscles had weakened to the point where basically I could barely write.
I searched the internet for a “Couch-to-Essay” training course (like those popular couch-to-5K programs).
I couldn’t find one.
As a bodybuilder, knowing some of my muscles are so badly detrained is infuriating.
I realized I hadn’t really thought about the lost art of handwriting.
Nor had I considered its importance beyond being a simple means of communication.
But by letting it go to the wayside, we lose something.
Something very important.
The Real Importance of Handwriting
Handwriting is an important part of a child’s ability to read, write (by hand or otherwise), and learn.
It develops both fine and visual motor skills, along with many other abilities crucial for learning.
- Visual focusing
- Mental attention
- Organized physical movements
- Receptive language
- Inner expressive language
- Memory recall
- Concentration and awareness
- Spatial perception
- Eye-hand coordination
- Motor planning
- Tactile input
- Crossing midline
Handwriting helps us develop the skills essential for all communication.
Without it, our brains don’t create some of the processes which help us be good communicators.
And all parts of communication suffer.
Study after study shows students who spend time working on their handwriting skills display a better ability to produce clear and coherent communication, quality writing, and have better focus and thought organization.
And like any essential process—the more you practice, the more efficient and effective you become.
This is true not just for literary skills, but for all neurological processes.
The Cursive Powerhouse
And we haven’t even gotten into cursive yet.
No discussion about the importance of handwriting would be complete without a special shout-out to cursive.
Cursive trains the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, along with fine motor dexterity.
In a study by Indiana University, researchers conducted brain scans on pre-literate five-year-olds before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction.
The children who had practiced writing by hand had more advanced neural activity than in those who had simply looked at letters.
They found the brain’s “reading circuit” of linked regions that are activated during reading are also activated during handwriting, but NOT during typing.
Handwriting and Adults
The importance of handwriting doesn’t vanish once you reach puberty.
The way it activates the brain is useful for adults as well.
This is especially true when it comes to creativity, as well as producing and organizing new thoughts and skills.
Neuroscientific research has discovered a distinct neural pathway linked to overall success in learning and memory.
Spoiler alert: This pathway is only active when we physically draw out our letters.
The process of writing has also been shown to have meditative properties and is extremely useful to increase focus, mindfulness, and help calm the mind.
Why do you think journaling is such a powerful tool for therapists?
Handwriting and Relationships
Handwriting provides a sense of identity, ownership, and intimacy when used in written communication with others.
Ever receive a handwritten note from a brand after you place an order?
How does it make you feel?
We can’t help but feel good when we get an unexpected handwritten note.
Or love notes?
How about love notes?
We swoon over love notes of old, but are we missing out by not keeping up this practice?
I’m the anti-pack-rat.
I throw everything out.
But I have a special folder for notes from my fiance, parents, or others that really mean something to me.
They are special, both in the words and because the handwriting gives me an extra piece of them, even when they are not with me.
Write, Write, Write it Out
I’m challenging myself to handwrite something meaningful each week.
This might be a letter, a piece of poetry, or another creative endeavor.
I’m not putting limits on it, I just want to write….and see where it leads me.
If you want me to send you a letter, shoot me a DM in the Spin Sucks Community with your address!
Like any other muscle, I want to train my writing muscles.
Both the ones in my hands and in my brain.
Photo credit: [Commonplace book], [mid. 17th c.] via photopin (license)