Tag Archives: handwriting

In Defense of Typing

Blogging

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Was not my last post about handwriting? How handwriting stimulates creativity and word productivity? Very true, but since then I’ve run across the article, ‘The Joy of Typing,’ which strikes back at the idea that typing reduces the quality of your thought.

Typing, the author Clive Thompson argues, does not make us stupider. Handwriting is great for note-taking, he goes on to say, because it prevents us from robotically recording every word we hear, and instead makes us think about how to shorten what we’re hearing into something we can write down. But typing is better for creating original works, because the speed of typing enables us to get all of our ideas down.

This is due, he argues, to something called ‘transcription fluency’ – getting down on paper the ideas you have in your head. Transcription fluency is improved in handwriting by teaching kids to practice making their letters until they don’t have to think heavily about each word they want to express, they can just write it. When it comes to typing, this involves teaching kids to type properly instead of with that two-fingered typing method. The more fluid you get, the more likely you are to get your ideas down before they slip away – and obviously the speed of typing makes it superior to writing in this respect.

Kids, Thompson argues, often DON’T learn proper typing, while most schools still do focus on printing with a pencil and paper. And you know what? I am utterly grateful my dad sat me down one summer and forced me to learn to type – This is will help you in highschool and university, he said, and he was absolutely right. I never typed notes in class, but I did type out dozens and dozens of essays, book reviews and assignments. And if I’d continued to hunt-and-peck at the keyboard like I remember doing in elementary school, I probably still wouldn’t be graduated now.

Did knowing how to type help me with my ‘transcription fluency’? After thinking about it, I think it probably did. I remember working in group projects where I’d try writing up the project with a several other people, and these people would just struggle with their section of the report while I pounded out my ideas in no time at all. I always figured it was their problem of overthinking every little word that they typed – that it would be better for them to just type something, and go back and fix it later. However, maybe it was directly related to their typing ability. Maybe they overthought every single word of their sentence because their typing ability was so slow that the sentence had to be good enough to actually be worth the effort of typing.

Where my experience doesn’t line up with Thompson’s arguments is where he states the ‘transcription fluency’ that comes with typing leads to higher quality writing – that once people could express their ideas at a pace of at least 32.4 words a minute they produced more coherent and readable writing. Like I said, my quality of fiction decreases drastically when I type (though I suppose the possibility is that I haven’t reached a high enough word count to get into a proper writing ‘trance’?) I feel like I miss my brain’s filter when I stare at a computer screen with the ability to pound out words as fast as I think them. I miss my ability to compose and recompose while my hand struggles to put those sentences on paper. But that is possibly just my own idiosyncrasy. After all, I don’t notice this when typing nonfiction.

In the end, I’d argue that knowing BOTH how to write and how to type are important. I never thought about how much I relied on typing until I read Thompson’s article, but I really, really do. Not for creating fiction – I seem to have some sort of technology block in my head when it comes to that – but certainly with creating nonfiction (like this very blog). With nonfiction, you need to be able to constantly rearrange sentences, and create and delete them. But handwriting stimulates different sections of your brain, and sometimes you need that too. This is pretty much the conclusion Thompson comes to too. Ideally, teach yourself to be fluid at both. Your writing might thank you for it.

Any further comments in defense of typing?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under On Writing

I Handwrite My Fiction, But I’m Not Stuck in the Dark Ages – I’ll Prove It

writingRemember back in November I said I managed to spew out 50,000 words in a month in order to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? Well, I may not have mentioned those were handwritten words, so really my total of 50,000 was a guesstimate. I have recently been occupied in typing these words up. And the result… well, do you think I over- or under-estimated?

Over. Definitely over. I’ve hit 46,000 words and I still have a third of the manuscript to go. Which leads to the question – why on earth would I use such an inefficient method of writing? I mean, handwriting? Hasn’t that gone out with the dark ages? They don’t even teach that to some school kids anymore!

Well, let’s bring in the authority of the New York Times on this issue, through their article “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.” I’ve written before about how I feel less creative typing, and how handwriting helps me to actually connect to my subject. Turns out there’s actually some scientific indications that this is not just a weird anomaly that occurs only in me.

According to the study quoted in the article, children who wrote text by hand not only produced more words (hello to me overachieving on my NaNoWriMo word count!), but also expressed more ideas (hello to the fact I feel more creative handwriting!). The article ends by quoting psychologist Paul Bloom as saying, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important. Maybe it helps you think better.”

As I said in my previous post, “My theory is that typing and handwriting use different parts of the brain, and in me only one of them is linked to creativity.” Wouldn’t it be neat if I wasn’t completely off-base? But then – what does this mean for technology? Are our computers soul-sucking beasts that are slowly draining away all of our society’s creativity?

I think not – to some extent the dulling effects of technology can be overcome. I can write far better by typing than I used to, though my fiction still comes out sounding wooden. More practiced authors, especially those raised on computers, will strengthen the brain’s creativity-into-typed-words pathway even more than I have. But hey, maybe someday someone will do a survey of all this century’s ‘greatest’ literature and find none of them have been typed – who knows? Get a scientist to research that.

So if you ever find yourself faced with a blinking screen and a bad case of writer’s block, why not try writing something the old-fashioned way? You might surprise yourself.

1 Comment

Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life

Typing Vs. Hand-Writing

By the way, I’ve noticed some new visitors here at Stories and Stuff! I’d just like to say “Welcome,” and if you leave a comment I’ll be sure to check out your blog, if you want.

Apparently some writer can just plunk themselves in front of a computer and start writing their masterpiece. I’ve always envied that. It would be so much faster – the thought comes into your head and you’ve typed it up onscreen.

Except when you’re like me, and you plunk yourself in front of a computer screen and every ounce of creativity drains away. Something in the cold technological beast seems to suck the soul out of my writing. Maybe because I learned to write using with pen and ink (I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, even asking my mom to spell out words letter-by-letter so I could write my first story before I could spell). Anyway, somehow when I’m faced with a pen and a sheet of lined paper, the words start to flow. And when I’m faced with a glowing computer screen, they don’t.

My theory is that typing and handwriting use different parts of the brain, and in me only one of them is linked to creativity.

Of course, there’s a few upsides to this. When I type something up it’s like an automatic second draft, and I can proofread while typing. Hopefully I’m less likely to spew and post online without thinking. Also, on paper you can scribble in the margins, cross stuff out, and see exactly what sentences you rejected.

Now, the difference I’ve noticed between printing and writing in cursive is a post for another time.

How to you write? More importantly, how do make your blog posts?

10 Comments

Filed under On Writing, Randoms & My Life