The Lost Art of Writing By Hand


It seems so easy to compose a written work on the computer these days. It’s suggested that because the tools have become so simple to use (a neatly organized workspace called “Word”, a simple-to-access file cabinet, and the world at your finger tips) the method of producing a paper should be easy and efficient. But we all know it’s just not.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve written two or three sentences down and deleted them the next minute. This process repeating for hours and hours, with the aide of countless cups of coffee, too many minutes scouring the internet for inspiration, and inevitably finishing the night in the exact same place as when I sat down; nowhere.

The problem is that while my parents were busy working hard to create these new tools with which I use to write, they forgot to teach me the process of how to write! The essentially said, “Here’s this wonderful tool, now write amazing things”.

When I draft on the computer, it’s easy to sporadically change my thesis and go off on a thought, like the chart of the stock market changing direction, and concluding with an idea different than the one thrown out in the intro. I never follow a single idea, but rather talk about how all these different ideas could make sense.

The fault lies in the method of my writing. I always forget that the world in the computer is really just an extension of my mind. The computer produces an image of what’s inside my head that I can see and manipulate. I invest real parts of me into this machine, hoping they’ll come out as real things, but I produce the same thing as if I were just sitting on my bed thinking; nothing.

Obviously it is possible to organize my thoughts enough to create something. I’ve done it on so many occasions the night before the paper was due through sheer will power, but my work turns out the same as if it were a poorly prepared speech I gave in class. Extensively thought out in the head, but poorly communicated to the point where my audience is just confused about what I’m trying to say.

That’s where writing by hand comes in. By writing my thoughts down on paper, I create a living document. Thoughts that come out of my pen are like water poured into a glass; it’s constantly flowing in one direction until the chalice has become full or the pouring stops. The idea is permanently there like the water in the glass and can only be removed if actively poured out.

What’s different between writing and typing is that the process of deletion. Pressing the delete button is different than erasing written work because the computer does the dirty work of throwing away my words and leaves me guilt-free. But by writing by hand, I must actively remove them if they don’t satisfy me. The physical action of deletion causes me think about the idea because I must first think about what I’m doing and why I’m making a change. Although it’s not a perfect method of communicating my thoughts onto paper, writing by hand doesn’t allow me to cut corners.

Now I write my drafts by hand, and edit them on the computer. I’ll print off the edited version and rewrite it, following the pattern until I’ve written a paper that says what I want it to say. It may seem like an annoying process because it takes too much time and effort, but ultimately it gets me what I want. Thinking and fantasizing about my ideas is fun, but actually doing and pursing my thoughts and trying to understand how I really feel is both productive and rewarding.

And in terms of creativity, let’s face it, anything manufactured by a machine can never compete with the honesty and thoughtfulness of something handmade.

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image – Taylor Liberato