Thursday, August 28, 2014

10 Ways to Use Your Pens and Write by Hand More Often

If you're a student or if you keep a journal faithfully, then you probably already have many opportunities to use your pens and write by hand in your daily life.  But even I have noticed that I use my pens much less now than I did when I was in university (3 years ago now), so for myself and for anyone else who loves pens and needs more opportunities to use them, here's a list of ideas for incorporating more writing by hand into your life.


1) Keep a journal - This is probably the most obvious place to start, but the traditional journal may not be for everyone.  If you feel uncomfortable committing your thoughts and feelings to paper, or if you just feel that you don't have anything to write about, consider keeping a log of weather observations, books read, movies watched, birds seen, or anything else that interests you.  Or check out books such as How to Make a Journal of Your Life by D. Price or Raw Art Journaling by Quinn McDonald for simple and alternative ideas to get started with a journal.

2) Doodle - Doodling can help us concentrate and remember information, and at the very least, enliven a boring meeting or class (I know I filled many page margins with doodles in my school years).  This is probably something that many of you do already, but my suggestion is to practice it in a more conscious way.  Keep a favourite pen and a pocket notebook nearby and reach for them whenever you have a spare second or feel the urge to doodle.  Perhaps this notebook of doodles will even become the start of an art journal.


3) Practice sketching the world around you - For many years I believed that I couldn't draw, but when I finally gave it a try, I was surprised at what I could do.  I'm sure that many people would discover something similar if they gave it a try as well.  And even if your sketches turn out awful, who cares?  I think that flawed sketches are more interesting than perfect ones anyway.  If you need ideas of things to sketch, try Danny Gregory's EDM Challenges.

4) Start a commonplace book - A commonplace book is a place where you collect favourite quotes, reference information, and other odds and ends (I mostly use mine to collect favourite poems).  The D*I*Y Planner website has a great 2-part article on what a commonplace book is and how you can keep one (though I actually kept one for years before I even knew what it was called).  I think that the commonplace book is a great option for anyone who likes the idea of keeping a journal, but doesn't have anything they want to write about.  And yes, you could save this kind of information in a file on your computer, but a commonplace book is more fun, and writing out favourites quotes and poems by hand is a better way to connect with and understand another writer's words.

 

5) Plan - Make a to-do list or keep a planner.  While I've used both digital and paper planning systems, I've found that using a paper planner helps me to see my tasks in a more focused, concrete setting.  There is also something very satisfying about checking off or crossing out a task once I have completed it.  There are many different styles of planners available to buy, or you can browse the very informative D*I*Y Planner website for other ideas.  And if traditional planners don't interest you, you can try the Bullet Journal.  (I've written many posts about my DIY planner and Bullet Journal, and you can find them all in my Productivity tab.)

6) Take notes - If you're used to taking notes digitally, try using pen (or pencil) and paper instead.  I believe that the act of writing things down by hand engages different parts of our brains than typing does, and helps us to remember and understand material better.  Writing also slows us down, forcing us to be more selective in our note-taking and focus only on the most important material.  And even if you're not a student, probably most people need to do research and take notes occasionally.


7) Improve your handwriting - You may not be interested in learning calligraphy, but I've found that simply practicing my cursive handwriting is a soothing and relaxing activity.  I also find it fun to play around with different styles of handwriting (this activity is kind of like doodling).  Even if you don't care about impressing people with your fancy handwriting, if you're spending more time writing by hand, then at some point you're probably going to need to read over what you've written, so ensuring that your handwriting is clear and legible will help make that easier.

8) Write drafts - If you write blog posts, articles, short stories, or anything else, try writing your first drafts by hand on paper, rather than on the computer.  As I mentioned above, writing by hand engages different parts of your brain and may help you to be more creative.  Turning off the computer reduces distractions and the lack of a backspace button may encourage you to be more spontaneous and turn off the inner critic..  I write nearly all of my first drafts by hand (or at least start writing them that way) and I do find it very helpful.


9) Remember things - Keep a pen and a pocket notebook near you at all times, and when you think of something that you want to remember, write it down immediately.  This way, you won't forget any important tasks, and all of those neat ideas that come to you throughout the day won't disappear.

10) Write pen reviews! - If you're truly a geek about pens, pencils, and writing by hand, then you may want to share that passion with the world.  Start a blog and write reviews of all of the pens, pencils, and notebooks you come across to let everyone else know what you think of them.  (The photo above is from 2012 and shows all of my pen review writing samples from my first three (or so) years with this blog.)

~~~
 
What do you do to get yourself writing by hand more?  Is this even an issue for you?  What suggestions would you add to my list?

23 comments:

  1. This is an excellent post! I love it. I really like the idea of #3 (especially because I love the idea of sketching but I can't do so to save my life...)...

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    1. I used to think the same about sketching as you, Azizah. So give it a try, you never know what might happen! My first sketches looked absolutely terrible, and they're still not amazing, but I have both improved and become more used to my imperfections :)

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  2. Great post. I like the commonplace book and just a book to practice my handwriting, never thought of those before. Now I must buy more journals. Oooh wait look that shelf over there....never mind

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  3. I pretty much do about a half-dozen of the things you mention, Heather. I'm sort of half-convinced that if handwriting were no longer taught, there'd be a "cognition crisis" announced in 2034, with researchers saying something like: "We can trace the origins of this crisis to the decision to quit teaching handwriting twenty years ago."

    Am I an expert? Nope. Am I exaggerating? I suspect not, although my thought is no more than a hunch.

    Jack/Ohio

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    1. Our schools have decided not to teach cursive any longer and I agree entirely with your point of view. Let alone anything else are we going to go back to making an x for our signature because we cannot write?

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    2. Anonymous, thanks. The subject of diminishing cursive instruction in schools really bugs me in a low-level way. I'm not a teacher, don't have kids in school, and no other professional interest in the subject. But, it bugs me, in a sort of exasperating "What the heck!" sort of way.

      You're right, too, is an "X" signature in our future, or will we need some electronic "signaturizer" gadget to do that for us? G-r-r-r:(

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    3. Sorry, that was me immediately above. Jack/Ohio

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    4. I feel a similar way about cursive not being taught. It just feels wrong to me. I also feel that we shouldn't rely on electronic technology too much, as we can't count on those systems to always be there for us.

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    5. Heather, I'm pretty uncomfortable, too, about technology that seems to be making demands on us that I don't think we bargained for. Anonymous, do you know if your school has an explanation for what it's doing with the money that's been freed up by not teaching cursive?

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  4. Hello. Have enjoyed your blog since finding it. I like to use accountants journals for practice w/ my fountain pens. The paper is archival quality, surprisingly smooth, lined and a nice tint of beige or green; depending. Some colors I would use in my stationery collection. I've started my own blog that's in the infant stages and added your as a favorite link. Hope you don't mind... Please visit at: wnclee.wordpress.com. Best, LeRoy W. Lee

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    1. That green-tinted paper sounds nice! And good luck with your blog - maybe you could share some of your fountain pen practice on it in a future post?

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  5. P.S. Forgot to mention that all of your handwriting steps I too follow... I've read a couple of articles lately that espouses the brain-benefits of actually writing by hand: NOT A KEYBOARD!!! LWL

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  6. Great ideas! Hope everyone tries to put them to use. Check out "Campaign for Cursive" blog for all of the latest research about cursive writing and the brain!

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    1. Pam, thanks. I commented a few years ago elsewhere on declining cursive instruction, and went on about small-muscle motor skills, the everyman's art possibilities of penmanship, etc. I sort of understand the teachers' case for submitting written work in typed form. I don't understand the case for dropping cursive. Seems to me there's too much going with the hand-eye-brain connections, although, as a non-expert, I can't really prove it.

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    2. Oops, again, that's me above. Jack/Ohio

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    3. I'm not familiar with the scientific research, but I know that cursive writing has an influence on the way my brain works. I start writing most of my first drafts in cursive because I've found that it helps me to write more easily.

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  7. Thank you. I've been trying to say some of the same things for a long time. Writing and sketching or just doodling is good for the soul.

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  8. When I am working out a poem, I like to do it by hand.

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  9. Hello!

    It took me quite a while to comment this post, since I was trying to put into practice some of your suggestions.

    Firstly I've checked how many options I was already practicing. Four are not that bad, since I practice almost every day (taking note, writing drafts, handwriting and planning). Besides I have started the commonplace book and I like it, hope to keep on doing in the future.

    Thanks Heather :-)

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  10. Hi again Heather!

    After some days trying to write more by hand, especially when I am out of home or the office, I realized that some compromises must be done: first fountain pens are cool but not on the go. So I have changed to the more practical felt tip pens.

    Furthermore, notebooks are no practical to carry but pocket journals turn out to be very useful.

    Finally, I am restoring my old Filofax, which could be a nice option.

    Thanks once again for all your suggestions: it really helps me to catch some ideas that cross my mind!!

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    1. Armando, I am so happy that my suggestions have been helpful to you. And I agree, fountain pens are not always the most practical when travelling; I usually carry ballpoints or gel pins instead.

      Good luck with all of your future writing-by-hand endeavours!

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  11. Great post- I will try some of your suggestions!

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