writer and domestic dude

This is Your Brain: This is Your Brain on Writing

No one is going to argue that you should write your next narrative through the fine tip of your Bic Ultralite (or by pencil, as Shelby Foote did). Unless of course it might be a fun experiment to see what new directions you move in (or to generate a media campaign and set yourself apart!). Also, please let the record show that brain research and science is an emerging field, intended to teach us about ourselves, not establish creeds or ultimatums about what is “truly” most effective.

When I taught at Dalton State College, a colleague, Leslie Harrelson, said she tells her students that brain research shows the difference in brain activity between what’s going on when one is writing by hand as compared to someone who’s writing on a keyboard is like the difference between “flying over Dalton at night and flying over Los Angeles.” Of course, she’s trying to get them to freewrite and generate ideas (in and out of class). Up until now, I’ve felt like I understood this research from my own anecdotal experience. Lately, though, the more I write on the keypad, the more I feel the flow of my thoughts very directly from thought to expression.

So, if you’re wondering why this topic keeps coming up lately, it’s because there is emerging data that clearly suggests the brain functions differently when physically forming letters by writing than it does through the swifter medium of punching the digits. Virtually all of it, however, focuses on brain development, education, memory and ideas, and the implications for the digitized world children are growing up in. Oh, and don’t worry, if you want your child to learn how to develop their handwriting skilz, there’s an app for that, as discussed in this video.

Not so much on the implications for writers. See if you can find some.

I’m a lifelong journaler. For the better part of a decade now, I’ve stuck with the uniformity of my black Moleskin notebooks, writing everything from poem drafts, to novel ideas, to song lyrics and other random jottings. I suppose we can see a pretty clear link to the value of handwriting from the current brain research for the kind of writer that seeks to “plumb the depths” of his or her memory, as well as for generating ideas. Virtually every writing textbook discusses different ways of composing and drafting, concluding with “Do whatever works.” Well, yeah.

Lately, though, I’ve increasingly found the keyboard so fluid, so immediate. My thoughts can transpose almost instantaneously onto the page. Am I missing out on ideas and imaginative connections I might otherwise have had? Have I just reached some comfort level, some “brain” milestone of development? Am I not using both sides of my brain when I use both hands to type?

What works for you?

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