I detest the blank document on my laptop. The cursor is mocking me—blinking on and off, waiting impatiently for me to do something.
I much prefer the blank page of a college-ruled notebook. What’s the difference? For one thing, there’s nothing there to mock me—just beautiful white paper with lovely horizontal lines waiting for me to begin writing—whenever I’m ready.
There are plenty of studies that suggest writing by hand helps the brain. One of those studies recently caught my eye. The research from Johns Hopkins University indicates handwriting helps adults learn literacy-related skills faster and better than trying to learn by typing or watching videos. Writing by hand prompts the brain to focus more on the words, allowing for better understanding.
And some physicians claim the act of writing is an excellent cognitive exercise. So, if you want to keep your brain sharp as you age, skip the laptop and cell phone and go with pen and paper. Your brain will thank you.
For All the Artists Out There
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron suggests writing morning pages to get the creative juices flowing. These are stream-of-consciousness pages. They don’t have to be pretty. They’re a chance to get any negative thoughts out of your head that may be blocking your creativity.
It makes a lot of sense, and I did these morning pages for over a year, but I often found I didn’t have enough thoughts floating around in my head to fill three pages. I’m a woman of few words, and in the morning, I don’t want to dwell on the negative stuff. I want to get to work.
So, now, my morning pages (or afternoon pages, or evening pages) consist of a few lines of ranting about whatever is bothering me. Then it’s onto the chapter of my book that just won’t come together or the blog post that I’ve waited until the last minute to write.
I’ve always enjoyed writing by hand. It feels natural to me. So, when I need to jumpstart my creativity, I pick up a pen and a notebook. It works like magic. The ideas flow from my brain, down my arm, through the pen, and onto the page. And when a line of prose doesn’t work, crossing it out with my pen is far more satisfying than pressing the delete key.
Plus, I can stop the handwriting process mid-sentence if I want and switch to my laptop to finish a piece. This works well when the scene (or article) becomes clear in my mind, and the words are coming faster than I can write them by hand.
I’ve also found that typing what I’ve already handwritten into a Word document is a great way to start the editing process. No time has been wasted.
It’s a great process, and there’s even some science to back it up.
So, blank page, I’m not afraid of you. Not when I have my trusty pen in hand.