Information on how to maintain our physical health is abundant these days. What to eat, what not to eat, how to exercise and what bad habits to avoid. But little is mentioned about the benefits of creative processes and how they can help us to develop a range of skills that might otherwise lie dormant in our deepest grey matter.
Take writing for example. Not typing, not texting, but actual writing, on paper, with a pen. We’ve taken it for granted in various forms since around 4000BC, but as it comes under attack from modern gadgetry, it’s important that we understand exactly what writing with traditional stationery does for us.
Start as we mean to go on
Writing triggers the same areas of the brain as reading does, and studies in children show a direct correlation between learning to write and how fast a child learns to read. So should it come as a surprise that as we encourage future generations to use keyboards, experts predict a related downturn in reading skills? It’s simple – if you learn to write by hand, your brain recognises the letters quicker when it sees them written down.
In addition, our handwriting is often a direct reflection of our personality, and encouraging this uniqueness in our children is essential for them to tap into who they are.
Unlocking the creativity
The action of moving a pen across paper triggers the same areas of the brain as painting or drawing, allowing us to tap into its creative areas and unlock our ideas – using ‘treats’ like quality note paper, journals and fountain pens also heightens the experience. In contrast, typing is something we do for convenience and requires the brain to follow a much less complex pattern, tapping into areas linked to mechanical movement rather than creativity. The two processes just can’t be compared in terms of brainpower.
In addition to its creative benefits, writing by hand forces us to focus on what we want to say before we write it down, resulting in our written word being more considered and concise. We are more inclined to think about how our chosen words will be interpreted, because we know it will be harder work to change them once they’re written. We’re also aware that our crossings out can be seen – which makes us more conscious of what we write in the first place.
How many hand-written song lyrics, complete with crossings out, have been sold for thousands at Sothebys? A case in point that the physical written word is often perceived as art.
For anyone who had to revise for an exam ‘pre-PC’, it will come as no surprise that writing things down opens up pathways in our brain linked to memory, which are not used when we type. We are far more likely to remember something we’ve written, than something we have typed.
In a world of deadlines and increased workloads, practicality dictates our need to make the most of time-saving technology, and of course some could argue that our written word doesn’t always need to be a work of art. But on balance, we need to acknowledge that the connotations of losing this precious skill altogether, could have consequences reaching far beyond the convenience of our computer keyboards.