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Should you write by hand? Handwriting pros and cons

by Feb 29, 2020Evergreen, On Writing: Craft and Commiseration0 comments

Writing by hand

There’s something about taking a favorite pen and a pretty notebook and just letting the words pour out. It’s an almost magical process where ideas can flow directly through your hand through the satisfying physical sensation of ink on paper. Or so I’ve been told since my joints are so bad I can’t handwrite for more than a few minutes before my fingers cramp up in pain.

Writing by hand is not for everyone. But if it’s what works for you, don’t let our gizmo-loving world discourage you from going low tech.

Advantages of writing by hand

Feels different from typing. There is something to that physical sensation of scratching words out on the paper. Even if it’s not an everyday solution, writing by hand can be a great way to free up ideas when you’re stuck or a way to change things up once in a while.

Very portable. It’s easy to leave a small notebook in your car or daily bag and take it on the go.

Advantages of going low tech. A paper notebook isn’t just light, it also doesn’t need batteries, a plug and outlet, have delicate ports or a breakable screen. This allows for more creative writing spots where you might not want to risk your pricey tech like alongside a beautiful mountain stream or on the beach.

Fewer distractions. There’s no way to access the internet from a piece of paper, no emails or notifications to pull your attention and no red squiggly lines to tell you when you spelled a word wrong. All of that makes it easier for you to just write without all the noise.

Easier to let go of your first draft. One of the hardest things for new writers to do when revising is letting go of their first draft. If the words you already wrote are right there in the document, why do the work of finding a better way to tell the story? But when you handwrite, you’ll end up rewriting everything anyway with each draft which makes it easier to cut and change things while you’re at it.

Disadvantages of writing by hand

You can’t publish something handwritten. While handwriting is great for journaling and other personal writing, you’ll have to type it in eventually if you have commercial plans because the publishing industry works with digital files. This adds an extra step to just about every part of the writing process from revision to publication.

There’s no backup. If you lose your notebook or spill your coffee on it, that’s it! The words are gone.

No cloud access. Because you’re writing in a physical notebook, there’s always the trap of forgetting it or feeling like you can’t write unless you have it.

Hard to translate or share what you wrote. To the eternal dismay of my first-grade teacher who tried to scare good penmanship into me, I have the worst handwriting in the entire world. Sometimes I can’t even read my writing and forget about giving something I wrote by hand to a beta reader or typist who’d never be able to interpret it. Turns out, sometimes those squiggly red spelling lines are a good thing!

Can be hard on the hands. If you’re not used to writing by hand, you’ll also learn pretty quickly that the muscles in your hand will need time to work up to regular writing so don’t be surprised if you joints rebel like it’s essay test day in high school.

What do you prefer?


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About the Author

Hillary DePiano is a playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer who loves writing of all kinds except for writing bios like this.

Books and Plays by Hillary DePiano