How many of you use a pen and paper to write? A handwritten journal? Post-it notes??
Yeah, I thought so. Not very many of you. I’ve learned in doing Prompt Group meetings for the last couple years that modern Americans don’t seem to write much anymore. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; after all, I am a Technorati of the first order, a modern-day “power user.”
Yet, philosophically, I have a lot in common with Luddites.
What’s a Luddite? They were a sect that shunned technology and modern contrivances. As I type this on a laptop in a friend’s home whilst using her wireless, for use on a group blog the authors of which reside all over the planet, I can’t in all honesty claim to be a Luddite, but still. I love me a pen and paper!
And here is something I’ve learned: there’s something alchemical that happens when one sits down to write that doesn’t happen in the same way when one sits down at the keyboard. I believe that it’s the kinesthetic process of one-handedness.
Bear with me. Kinesiology is the study of muscles and how they work. “Kinesthetic learners” learn, literally, by doing: by working with their hands or bodies. When we write, we do so one-handed – even if we are the rare ambidextrous person, when writing, we’re not doing so with a pen in each hand. We write with one hand, one pen, on one surface. When we type, we do so either with one finger of each hand, or we know how to touch type and use all ten fingers.
We know from the treatment of Epilepsy and cognitive developmental theory that things that bridge the left/right brain hemispheres helps, literally, to teach the brain to think. That’s good, right?
I believe, though, that writing with one hand can, if done for long enough, help us to bridge the hemispheres in another way: by literally giving one “side” voice to the other side. We can, over time, get to know ourselves better and to even start to communicate with our own subconscious minds. This happens more easily, I’ve observed, by the tool of handwriting and not the tool of typing. I don’t know why this is so, but I’ve seen it happen so consistently that I’ve accepted its reality even if I don’t understand all of the methodology.
My long-time readers have heard my arguments on Morning Pages, an idea put forth by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way and others. Three pages of longhand writing, done in the morning, can alter our waking reality. I have seen this to be true in my own life as well as others that I’ve known that have used the tool. What’s more, at the end of a Prompt Group, where we write to prompts for two hours, I see it happen in the writers who attend. (For more information on the Prompt Group, please visit our website.)
I urge you to try it for yourself: try writing three pages a day, or hand write a letter or card to an absent friend. Postcards are good, too. Try writing the response to a story prompt (if you don’t have one, just Google “writing prompt” and pick one). See if you can unlock the magic of the pen for yourself.