The simple joys of hand-writing

I take a lot of crap about my note-taking. Constant scribbling is so central to my persona, in fact, that one colleague recently expressed concern during a meeting when I wasn’t taking notes. “I forgot my pen,” I shrugged.

Here’s the thing: I have a terrible memory — so if I don’t write it down I’ll probably forget it. My notes help me remember. (In fact, research shows the physical act of writing itself seems to help us remember.)

But the scribbling hadn’t crossed into my personal life until this spring, when I went to New Orleans with my husband and our friends Liz and James. I expected our days to be so full of sightseeing that I left the laptop at home, and instead brought a little journal so I could jot a few notes on the fly.

NOLA journal 1020973 BLOG

I ended up filling the entire notebook.

I loved that it weighed nothing, fit in my purse, and that I could whip it out in an instant — no booting-up or internet required. I also loved that the quality of my handwriting itself reflected how I was feeling. But most of all, I loved the tactile experience of putting pen to paper.

We’ll skip over the part where I develop a full-on obsession with that tactile experience, and start making my own notebooks out of onionskin paper — or the bit in which I dig out an old fountain pen, retrofit it with a super-fine Japanese nib, and try a parade of inks that leak, dribble, and sputter until I’m a literal ink-stained wretch.

The important thing is that soon I had the pen and notebook of my tactile-experience dreams … and I was writing reams. I don’t know how many pages exactly, but certainly 200 in the past three months.

Over the past three months my hand-writing habit has helped me grieve a dear friend, rediscover sketching, and mark a family milestone.

Hand writing 1020977 BLOG
This is “sketching.” Thankfully, the family milestone featured far fewer insects.

My trusty pen and notebook have also helped me reconnect with a writing process I’d long since forgotten: Sit down. Think. Write.

It may sound simple, but the ripple effects have been profound.

I’ve become better at focusing since I started writing by hand. Partly it’s because hand-writing takes more time and energy than typing, so I’m motivated to be concise. But it also forces me to slow down (since my thoughts can only flow as freely as my hand does). In this way, writing has again become a form of meditation for me.

Here’s one of those particularly meditative moments — the start of a pilgrimage — which I stumbled onto in Paris last month:

I awoke at 6 a.m. to what sounded like a manif [protest]: One man speaking short phrases into a bullhorn, and the murmurs of a crowd. I made a mental note as I got dressed. “Avoid the Hôtel de Ville.”

My intended destination was the Marché de la Philatelie, which the TimeOut guide said opened at 8 a.m. But I was distracted on my way to the Métro by the throngs of people milling about on the sidewalks. The [Quai Montebello] was choked with parked cars.

The crowd grew thicker still as I approached Notre Dame, where two guys were guarding the entrance to the parvis [courtyard]. “C’est pourquoi ?” I asked. “It’s the beginning of the pilgrimage to Chartres,” one guy replied. “May I pass, to get to the Métro ?” I asked. They nodded and let me in.

But of course I dawdled and watched and took photos. Most of the pilgrims were kids, dressed in matching outfits according to their affiliations: Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Germans, school groups …

The main, central doors of the cathedral were open to welcome them. As they began their procession, the sound of the majestic organ burst through and subdued the bullhorn and the murmuring and the sounds of traffic. And as if by instinct — of maybe generations of conditioning — the crowd responded in song.

Journal 1020793 BLOG

I’ll be back soon with some more of these stories. Thank you for stopping by, and for taking the time to read.



    • What a wonderful idea to write before bed — to sort of summarize the day, in a sense, and put it to, well … bed! 🙂 I do that also when I’m traveling, in hopes of not forgetting a single detail about my day. But when I’m at home I find myself writing mostly when I’m experiencing emotional turmoil. I should take a page from your book, though, and make it more of a daily habit! Thank you so much for stopping by.

  1. I really enjoyed this post as I feel the same about handwriting. I keep a 5 year one line a day journal and it is great just to get down the emotion or essence of a day in a single sentence,

    • One line a day? What a BRILLIANT idea! It sounds like a fantastic exercise to try to distill an entire day of experiences and emotions into a single sentence. I’m going to try it tonight. Thank you so much!

  2. Right there with you 🙂 I have to write (not type) before I can blog, although I write not nearly as much or a well as you. I am getting better at just sitting down and blogging, though. In fact, you probably can relate with my post from two years ago

    And I LOVE your bugs ❤ ❤ ❤ I wish I could do a tenth that well!!! Gee…writing, blogging, photography, drawing…talented you are 😀

    • HI JEFF!! I’m a journal junkie too. 🙂 On the plus side? At least our addiction is legal (at the time of this writing, anyway) and fairly inexpensive (unless you buy those fancy leather-bound tomes they sell at Barnes & Noble).

      All joking aside, I’m really touched by your kind comment. But you’re a very fine writer yourself, and I’m sure you could draw lovely bugs if you had a book to copy them out of, as I did. (Honestly, they’d look *a lot* different if I tried to draw them from life. Though if a bug that large ever approached me, I would probably skip the drawing part entirely and just RUN.)

      Well, here’s to you, and to blogging, and woobies, and to happy times ahead ….

  3. I love hand writing, I’ve been doing it since I got my Reiki degree one. I decided to write a little journal to record my 21 days clearing process after the Reiki attunement and after that I could never stop it! I’ve got many now, and I always carry my little notebook wherever I go. It’s a great way to access the bigger picture in your process of growth. ♡

    • What an excellent point you make, Fernanda: Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to get the bigger picture, and to see yourself grow. (Good for you for making growth such a priority in your life, by the way!) Thank you so much for stopping by, and for taking the time to leave your kind comment.

  4. I used to love to write by hand. When I was 12, I wrote a novel longhand on notebook paper with a fountain pen. I had four international pen pals and wrote letters all the time. (I still write to one of them.)

    I like my handwriting. It feels good to write. And when I write something down, I remember it far better — even if I never go look at the note again.

    But when I taught myself to write computer code, soon I became WAY faster at typing than writing, and writing fell away. I type about 100 wpm; I will never be able to write legibly that fast. I find it frustrating that my hand can’t keep up with my thoughts. My fingers barely can on the keyboard, but it’s closer. So I’m a typist now, and I’m unlikely to go back.

    That said, while in NYC I had an avalanche of blog ideas, so I bought a Moleskine notebook and a pen at LaGuardia and wrote them out longhand the whole flight home. Because I’ll always love quality writing instruments and paper, and I can’t always have my laptop with me.

    • You wrote an entire *novel* on paper — and at age 12? Those facts are equally astounding, Jim. [H bows deeply in respect.]

      I can completely understand why you’d largely abandon hand-writing, though, as a 100-wpm typist. There’s no arguing that’s far more efficient for a prolific writer like yourself. (And I’ll admit I follow your example for most of my professional work, albeit at a slower rate of about 80 wpm.) But as you say, there’s still something wonderful about putting a fine writing instrument to paper, isn’t there? At the very least, I’ve had a ball revisiting the pages I wrote on my way home from my last trip: It’s pretty easy to spot when the turbulence hit!

  5. Yes I am with you on this. I find that when I enjoy writing, the piece started by hand. Sometimes I even leave a blog piece to go back to the pen when I get stuck. I wonder if this is generational? The younger writers I have talked to, find our need to hand write drafts, outlines, ideas, draconian.

    There is something a little disconnected in the process when I write online. I am so much easier to distract. I keep a notebook with me, and detest Ipads…. Does it feel more personal for you when you handwrite? By the way, your penmanship is beautiful.

    When I taught, a few years ago, I was amazed that middle schoolers could not write legibly, much less attempt cursive writing. Can you imagine schools are dropping handwriting from the curriculum in elementary grades. The discipline, patience and hand-eye coordination it teaches kids is invaluable…
    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    • I very much think there is a generational aspect to this business of writing by hand. As you observe (and to my mutual despair!) kids aren’t being taught how to write by hand anymore — and I fear it’s to their detriment. You’re so right about the invaluable lessons penmanship teaches, far beyond the simple act of forming letters.
      But to answer your other questions: Absolutely, writing by hand feels more personal to me! A notebook registers so much information — how much pressure I applied with the pen, how carefully I formed my letters — that I can almost reconstruct my state of mind, even years later. It’s a sort of “body language” for my writing, I suppose …
      In any case, thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for leaving such a thoughtful comment.

  6. I too am a “jotter”…I have to write everything down or I’ll forget it as well. Even growing up I studied and created by writing everything out. It helps me process my thoughts and slow down the rhythm…typing is so quick it doesn’t really sink in what your conveying.

    I love the journal you’ve created! That’s a brilliant idea and much more classy than my bouquet of sticky notes I have everywhere! Fantastic post into your creative process. 🙂

    • Your “bouquet of sticky note” sounds rather festive and colorful, in its way! 🙂 But smiley-faces aside, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Cheers to you, fellow jotter!

  7. I get up in the middle of the night just to write a thought. I’m not much of a writer, but I do write. I have over one million words written in five different manuscripts. If only someone would read one of them….

    • More than *one million* words, Michael? Respect to you, sir! Have you considered publishing one of your manuscripts through a blog, perhaps as a series? I haven’t made a single penny off my blogging, of course, but I sure have enjoyed exchanging thoughts with my readers …

      • I don’t write with the expectations of making money from selling books. But, I would like to complete the journey with just one of the five manuscripts I have written.

  8. I like to write to and force myself to write. Often all I do is type to such an extent my writing is horrible. When I have to take notes, and go back to them – its like what did I write. I love old school pen and paper, and it is therapeutic, and it helps in memorizing and making that information, or that learning your – yours to the core and forgetting is less likely. I do enjoy writing regardless of my horrible writing.

    Love this post, and your writing I might add -beautiful and clean and same size. Your doodles well they are a work of ART – let me tell you. Cause my works of art would be classified as doodle after what I have seen here. Oh the creative side of me that was great when I was a kid is so dead as an adult.

    Great post, and really refreshing. Thanks for sharing
    Wishing you a great rest of the weekend.
    Regards Bella

    • Thank you for your very sweet comment, Bella. Would you believe that I get a lot of complaints from the art directors I work with about my writing — specifically because it’s all the same size and they can’t distinguish my d’s from my r’s, and because everything is capitalized? 🙂 So your compliment about that really brightened my day. I’m sorry you feel you’re less creative as an adult than you were as a youngster, though. I guess I also feel that way to some extent — at least because I don’t spend as much time painting and writing as I used to. I suppose it’s an inevitable side-effect of having adult responsibilities, like a job and a family. But I hope you’ll continue doodling and writing just the same, just for the joy of it. Cheers to you, and thanks again!

  9. It was a very good read. When you wrote: slow down, think, write; you identified in my opinion a societal issue across the board. Technology has done many things including spoiling us. As a result ink pens are constantly on sale to encourage to write. In my mind I have some of the best ideas and promise myself to write them down and fail to do so almost 90% of the time.

    I agree think writing uses more creativity and brain power than typing. I have about 5 beautiful journals given to me as gifts that are not complete however I have flash drives that are loaded with data. You have inspired me to pick up that journal and write. Who knows there could a good story to share in the process.

    • I agree wholeheartedly with you! Technology is wonderful in many ways (for instance, it allows us to exchange ideas as we’re doing right now). But it can also rob us of our connection to really important and fundamental things like being quiet, thinking deeply, appreciating nature, etc. But all of that said I’m really happy and honored that this post has inspired you to pick up one of your journals and write. I do hope you’ll find a good story (or three!) to share in the process. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for making my day with your kind comment.

    • There are no prerequisites for this drawing that “all previous notebooks must be filled,” so consider yourself in the running! 🙂

  10. This is quite an interesting reflection on something so simple! It’s beautiful. At the same time it can be made so complex. I find that when I try to start a journal, I often end up writing short stories. I like to reflect on things happening in my life as if I were just watching, or reading, rather. It gives a different perspective in some ways, even though it is all coming from my life and my head! And the act of writing it all down has such a flowing, calming feel, as I’m sure you agree. 🙂 Beautiful post.

    • Isn’t it funny how sometimes the things that seem simple or mundane in our lives are actually quite complex? Journaling is very much that way, I think — as you say so well, it sometimes yields unexpected viewpoints and perspectives. In fact, I think it’s wonderful if it helps you “get out of your own head” a bit and see your life with a bit of distance! That’s an art I’ve not yet quite mastered, but I’ll keep trying. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by, and best wishes with your studies!

      • It is indeed. I think getting out of your own head for a bit is like your mind is taking a breather. It’s a good way to handle crazy emotions better too, as well as anything else crazy that gets thrown at us. 😛 Thank you! (So close to the end). Keep up the great posts!

  11. I absolutely love journaling by hand. I constantly am buying new journals and new planners. The pen and paper experience is great. If i document my thoughts or my notes in the computer or on the phone, I forget that they are there. With my journal it is a more personal experience. I really enjoyed reading this post!

      • I’m so sorry to hear about your friend …
        I do hope revisiting your happy memories will bring you some comfort in the days and weeks ahead. xx

    • Great point! I also tend to forget things I save to my computer, because they get lost in the flotsam. Thank you for your kind comment!

  12. I’m not after the prize, because I can’t see my self writing by hand. But wow, by the look of the photo you are a very neat handwriter! And I can imagine the discipline it instils, but I must admit I prefer to tidy up my writing afterwards. As a matter of fact, one of the things I love about writing (ie typing on my iPad) is the fact that I can just start – I find that very freeing, and ideas tend to come that I would not have thought of. Then I go back, fix my punctuation, move my paragraphs, add ideas… But I am quite inspired by your careful choice of pen and paper, even though I’m never likely to do it myself. It just sounds lovely.
    Like your sketches too by the way!

    • Well, Terry … you certainly win the prize for the most honest and self-aware comment! (“I’m not after the prize, because I can’t see my self writing by hand.”) 😉 And believe it or not, I can absolutely agree with you: I find it very freeing also to be able to delete words and move paragraphs around and even check for typos on my computer. In my professional life I’ll sometimes write seven or eight lead-ins, just to see where they lead! It’s a comfortable writing process for me also, and still my preferred method for “serious” work. But writing by hand has been a wonderful revelation into how differently I approach the task when I know I don’t have the luxury of changing words and moving text around. If nothing else, it’s given me a far greater appreciation for some of my favorite authors who produced entire volumes without the benefit of programs like Storymill and Scrivener. In any case, what really matters is that we keep at it, right? Cheers to you, and thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  13. Joy of handwriting is such a wonderful. No auto correct, no itallic or bold, write the way you want. handwriting is more beautiful when you surrounded by nature, no gadgets in the lap of the nature. That is amazing!

    • You are so right … there is something wonderful about writing in nature, without any gadgets or distractions. Perhaps I will do that today. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by, and especially for leaving your kind comment.

  14. Love this idea H. Thank you for the inspiration. I have notebooks and I tend to write down ideas that pop into my head. I have an inspiration one where I just jot down random ideas for photography, poetry, recipes etc. It has helped me to remember things and great ideas I might forget otherwise. I also have an old diary that I use to write down things my children say or do that I find adorable, then I just add the date of the year, but I have been guilty of late and forgotten or neglected to do that. This is a great reminder. Thank you. Please don’t use my comment to place in the draw for your give-away, as I would rather give and extra chance for someone else to win the draw. I have been fortunate to receive your generosity in the past. P.S. I love your drawings. 🙂

    • You are so sweet, Rochelle … as always. I’m really charmed that you have an old diary full of your children’s adorable moments. That’s something to really treasure — because they grow up so fast, don’t they? I’m honored that this post may encourage you to keep up that wonderful habit. A big hug to you from Minnesota!

  15. Love this post! I love scribbling in notebooks too, especially at night when I wake up with ideas and thoughts I don’t want to loose, I scribble them down and go back to sleep!

    • What a great idea, Eveline! And do you find that the ideas still make good sense in the morning? (I ask because I tried to journal my dreams for a while, but found that what seemed like great ideas and insights in the middle of the night didn’t quite hold up as well in the light of day. 😉

      • It seems my best ideas emerge at night! I used to try to hold those thoughts which often resulted in not being able to sleep anymore so this is sooo much better! Haven’t tried it with dreams. But they never make sense anyway 😉

  16. I’m rediscovering the benefits of writing by hand instead of relying on my phone or computer. So I’ve begun writing down reminders and recipes by hand. My penmanship is definitely not as good as it was in school but I hope I can regain it with more practice. And it’s time I put those pretty notebooks I have to good use 🙂

    • I *love* hand-written recipes! They’re so much more personal than something typed out in Times New Roman, don’t you think? And I can relate perfectly to your thoughts about your penmanship: Mine has suffered from disuse, too, but it’s slowly coming back. Those writing muscles are like any other, I guess: Use ’em or lose ’em! Thank you so much for stopping by.

  17. It’s so true. Awesome post. I find typing on laptops more tiring than jotting down my ideas on a note book.

  18. I love the feeling of handwriting, however I always get frustrated by my chicken scratch handwriting, which only gets worse as I get carried away by my thoughts. I like the intimate feeling of my hand making the words–like you said it’s a tactile experience, but then my slightly OCD quirks get in the mix and force me to go back to my computer to write.

    However, I think I’m going to try to start a journal, not only to document life and work through internal struggles, but also to train myself to get past that need to have perfect handwriting. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I’m so pleased you found this inspiring, Ms. Meadows! I despaired at my chicken-scratching too, when I first got back into journaling but with practice it’s gotten much better (and much more consistent) over the past couple of months. Perhaps you’ll find the same is true for you too. As a complete aside, I’ve just visited your blog and *loved* your tip on how to get your computer to read your writing back to you. That’s brilliant. Thank you for that! And thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      • Haha, you’ve given me hope I can improve my sloppy writing, with a little patience. And thank you for checking out my post–I’m glad to hear it was useful 😀

        Looking forward to reading more from you!

  19. Excellent post. I have notes everywhere live. I treasure these treasures of spontaneous insights. Yet, very fortunate, that my memory has returned! And as all my recent CT, PT and Sonogram scans substantiate, my memory is back; and without having had to use drugs. One of the greatest gifts in life, is living it: “All in Awe!” by William E.Gray

    • How wonderful to hear that you’ve regained your ability to remember, William. It’s one of those things we take absolutely for granted until it’s gone, isn’t it? And even better is your approach to living life: “All in awe.” I bet your sense of wonder and appreciation is contagious! All the best to you.

    • You’ve brought me so many smiles through your lovely photos that I’m grateful to repay the favor, Hanna! 😉 xx

  20. It will be interesting if, at some point in the future when handwriting is no longer taught, that somebody calls on us, the ‘handwriting generation’, out of retirement, to teach the keyboard-wielding young how to touch an ancient tool called a ‘pen’ to a weird substance called ‘paper’ and watch ‘ink’ flow into circles and lines to make words. Hopefully we’ll be able to milk the situation to the utmost and charge top dollar for our artisan penmanship workshop weekends, in suitably rustic settings.

    There was a time, not so far in our own past, when your colleagues would have found it strange to see you writing when you should have been forming your letters with needlepoint. A time when writing was for men of business only, in a strong, purposeful ‘manly’ hand

    We women have only had pens in our hands for our own benefit for the last 150 years or so. It’s been a short friendship.

    • I, for one, would not mind spending my dotage as a (hopefully very well-paid) scribe! It’s actually not so difficult to fathom — and I suppose it would be keeping true to the majority of human history, in which only a lucky few knew how to wield parchment and pen.

      But the fact that women have only had pens in our hands for 150 or so years is big news to me! With any depth of reflection I realize it’s probably true, with maybe a few possible exceptions through the centuries (I’d like to think that Heloise asked Abelard to teach her how to write …).

      And speaking of a purposeful “manly” hand, here’s a video you may enjoy:

      • Thanks for the video, H. You can already see ‘penmanship’ beginning its rise to specialist status in the rather reverential tones that surround young Jake. His skills are being positioned as arcane. Which all bodes well for our future as high earning handwriting teachers – all the hard marketing work will have been done for us!

        Yes, I hadn’t thought about the separation between the skills of reading and writing and the fact that the latter was only considered ‘necessary’ for a very few citizens. Young Heloise was something of a prodigy, wasn’t she? Maybe she helped Abelard to finesse his calligraphy.

        Anyway, with our retirement incomes secured, time to visit Paris again!

        • After I posted my previous reply it struck me like lightning that *of course* Heloise knew how to write! It’s because of her and Abelard’s steady (and often steamy) correspondence that their story has survived the centuries, I think. At least according to the Au Coeur de L’Histoire podcast …

          Great observation too, about the reverential tone of that short film about young Master Penman Jake. It hadn’t occurred to me it’s a sign that our writing skills may soon be in demand! I think we must indeed book another trip to Paris, knowing how lucrative our retirement years will be. (Ha ha! I love your sense of humor, Elaine!)

  21. Wonderful post! I recently tried to explain to a friend why I decided to write and not type little stories and couldn’t find the right words, you just did. Thank you. PS: As a teacher in France, I dread the moment when the students will be asked to do all their ‘written’ work on their laptop…I know I won’t give up pen and paper without a fight!

    • I’m so glad (and honored) you liked my post! And if it ever comes to students doing all of their “written” work on a laptop, I will join you in the fight to preserve pen and paper! It seems like such a fundamental human skill, I can’t quite believe schools are abandoning it.
      PS: Je suis folle de la France ! J’aimerais bien apprendre à écrire <> — c’est un style d’écriture unique dans le monde et très beau, à mon avis.

      • I am so happy to see you replied to my comment. I started my blog a few days ago and plan to post the beginning of a short story I am writing in French at the moment. I don’t know where it is gonna go, it just seems the story line is unfolding in my mind and I lost control of it, I love that feeling! I would be so glad and honored if you had a look at it!
        Bonne continuation et à très bientôt, j’espère.

        • How wonderful, about your short story in French! I will very much look forward to reading it when you post it. (And I agree wholeheartedly: It’s a wonderful thing to lose control of one’s story line! Did that ever happen to Victor Hugo, though, I wonder?)
          Bonne continuation à vous aussi, et à très bientôt !

  22. I love this! Journaling is so therapeutic to me! I’m especially drawn to my idea that a passage can be revered as a painting. A story encapsuled on a page illustrated by pen come to life through reading…(sigh) 🙂
    Great post!

    • What a poetic description of the writing process! It’s wonderful you also find journaling so therapeutic. For my part, I think it’s saved me thousands of dollars in therapy! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by.

  23. Your writing is such a perfect example of what I always tell my students: You have to write to remember things; it’s a whole new experience! It will HELP you! They very rarely believe me, but it is nice to see someone who is proving that I am not that one crazy, old-school English teacher. 🙂

    • You are NOT a crazy, old-school English teacher! If your students don’t believe you (and me), show them this Scientific American article:
      … and if they think that’s some crazy old-school musty magazine, then maybe they’ll believe Mental Floss:

      Hope that helps prove — for once and for all — that you’re a genius, and that your students should hang on your every word. 🙂

      As an aside, THANK YOU for being a teacher. I became a writer because of my 8th-grade English teacher, Ms. Drometer. You never know the profound ways in which you may influence these kids, or how grateful they’ll be to you a few years down the road.

      • Thank you for these great articles! I think I will post them to my own blog.

        I don’t know about being a genius, but I’m hoping that the kids will, if nothing else, take my word for it knowing that I have their best interests at heart. Then maybe, as you say, they will look back with gratitude a few years down the road when they are superb young writers!

  24. I’m a fairly disciplined archivist of notes and observations and haphazard journaler to boot and I find myself gobsmacked at the exquisite linearity of your printing in that bottom image. It cannot be real, haha! I’m such a horrid smudger and scribbler…..ugh. At any rate, clearly deviating from the subject and arena as you’re handling it but because of how your essay started it brought to mind Henry Alford’s “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners” in which I recall he generalizes about a Japanese cultural tendency toward fastidious note taking as a form of respect. It had never dawned on me that some people would find scribbling notes to be such an utter distraction.

    At any rate, about a decade ago I found my ideas were starting to emerge more fluently from keypad than pen. It was a startling, disconcerting revelation which to this day still makes me feel sad inside.

    • Thank you for your kind words about my writing, Jason! I’ll confess that a great deal of that “exquisite linearity” I owe to the lined sheet I put under my plain writing paper. And anyway, my scribbling gets downright chicken-scratchy too depending on my state of thought. Some of the stuff I’ve written might even pass for a prescription, ha ha!

      Thank you, by the way, for mentioning “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners.” Based on the title alone I must check it out! I’d never heard about the Japanese cultural tendency for fastidious note-taking, though it doesn’t surprise me: They seem to treasure beautiful letterforms (in their art, for example) in a way we really don’t in the West. But to complete the thought, yes, some people do find scribbling notes an utter distraction. At least it seems that way when they ask, “Munro. What all are you scribbling over there?” I never mind reading it back, though, so they can rest assured it’s nothing nasty about them. 😉

      As for your last paragraph … well, I just love how you put it: “It was a startling, disconcerting revelation which to this day still makes me feel sad inside.” I know *exactly* what you mean, Jason! That’s why I’m making an effort to do at least some of my writing by hand, even if it’s an awkward and inefficient process. I still do 98% of my writing on a laptop, but scribbling down that 2% on paper at least ensures I don’t lose touch with that part of myself completely. And it sounds like you do the same?

      As always, thank you SO MUCH for stopping by. I really appreciate your thoughtful, thought-provoking comments.

    • HA HA! No worries, mate. I only counted three and I think you have to get a minimum of five before your friends stage an intervention. 😀

    • How wonderful! They’re a treasure you’ll look back on someday. I wish I’d kept the diaries from my youth …

  25. This is awesome! I love hand-writing and am always a fan of others who keep up this lost art. I love your idea of keeping a journal in your purse to write down thoughts. I’m often using my notes app on my phone but it feels too awkward most times. I’m still a fan of hand-writing cards and sending them by post. I wrote about it here, earlier this year! href=””>Treasure in the Mailbox

    Thanks for the fun blog! I’ll be following you 🙂

    • What a sweet note, Tasha. Thank you! I loved your post about hand-written notes and join you in hoping the USPS never goes out of business. Like you, I’ve been making a concerted effort to mail more hand-written letters. I always love imagining my friends’ faces when they find the envelope or small parcel among the bills and junk mail. Thank you so much for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment. (PS: I’m honored to be your newest subscriber too!)

  26. I simply love my notes. You are right, there is simply no substitute for writing things down physically, not only because of the “memory-increasing” effects they have, but because I personally feel that writing provides a way to express yourself, and when you write it down physically, you seem to have a more intimate connection with what you have written. I am not saying that writing on the laptops, pc, etc depreciates the value of your writing. But that when you write something down, you feel that that work is more personal, and you are able to express yourself more freely.
    At least that is the case with me. Good to know that there are other people who love writing down things on a simple old-school notebook rather than modern gadgets.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more if someone paid me to! 🙂 Writing by hand is far more personal (dare I say intimate?!) than typing in a thousand myriad ways. As you said, I am glad others out there still think so, too. It’s kind of comforting in our digital age to realize some of us still value that human touch. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  27. Your post reminds me of how bad my penmanship has become over the years. My chicken scratch looks like crap! I need to get a nice journal.

    • My writing had deteriorated to the point of “doctor scribbles” also. 🙂 I’m pleased to report it does get better with practice, though! Thank you for stopping by.

  28. I too love handwriting! I still write personal letters to my grandma that lives abroad and I look forward to getting her hand written letters! Whenever I am troubled, I write down how I am feeling and it’s as if I have unloaded and it feels so much better. Like I’ve got it out my system or Sometimes it’s my plans, and I feel more organised. Hey I enjoyed reading this! Look forward to reading more of your work xx Alicia

    • How wonderful that you can still correspond with your grandmother, Alicia! I corresponded a lot with my Abuelita Josefina in Mexico when I was little, and truly treasure her letters — it’s wonderful to still be able to “hear” her voice, even 35 years after having lost her.

      As for the therapeutic value of journaling: I agree! I seem to whine and complain less about life’s little annoyances if first I write them down. It gives you perspective, doesn’t it?

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

    • PS: Wonderful start on your new blog, Alicia. Keep going! I look forward to reading more of your posts too. 🙂 xx

  29. Writing is so therapeutic for me. When I’m going through an emotional time in my life I feel this nagging urge to write. Somehow getting all my inner thoughts out on paper clears my mind…As if my thoughts are physically being moved out of my head onto the paper. Keep writing – even if they are just doodles or scribbles… It has meaning to you 🙂

    • I love your description of your thoughts being “physically moved out of your head onto the paper”! And thank you for the encouragement to keep writing. Right back at you! 🙂

  30. I recently started jotting down notes on my phone in the apps “notes” when I get new ideas of things to write about. I just recently started doing this so I don’t have to many yet. It seems to help me though because I always think of really cool things to write about and then when it comes down to it I can never remember what it was that I wanted to write about. I wish I had the patience to write notes by hand, that would be so cool to look back at all my old notes in a journal one day but it just seems easier to me to do it on my phone.

    • Whatever works, right? 🙂 The important thing is to capture your ideas so you don’t forget them, I think. Thanks for stopping by!

  31. I always wish I was the type of person who took a notebook with them wherever I went. I always seem to forget, or I get scared that I’m going to ruin the book because my handwriting is the worst, but when I do get a notebook out I always find that it helps me focus on my work.

    P.S. Your handwriting looks amazing. I wish mine was as neat as yours 🙂

    • You’re so sweet, Shana Rose … thank you for complimenting my tiny handwriting. 🙂 Believe it or not, I can *completely* relate to your fear of “ruining” my notebook. That’s why the one I carry now has removable sheets, so I can have as many “do-overs” as I want. (Don’t you wish we could do the same in life? Ha ha.) Anyway, thank you for stopping by and especially for taking the time to comment.

      • Haha, like that pizza I ate last night… now I’d like to go back and eat something a little bit healthier! I always think I should do the same, but then I get carried away in stationary shops and end up coming away with a hard-back notebook because it’s prettier.

  32. I too get a lot of grief about writing….but it is my way of releasing and remembering at the same time. I write it all down as it comes to mind, as I experience it and when I go back and reflect on it, it helps me get through difficult times and also helps to record the joys and pains as I go through daily life.

    • I *love* how you’ve put it: “it is my way of releasing and remembering at the same time.” Well said! Thank you for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment.

  33. I have a tiny notebook i carry around with me, and long before i actually started writing, i would write little stories and poems and basically whatever it was that crossed my mind usually at the back of my school notebooks:”)
    I love my handwriting, and even before i blog, or just type something into my laptop to save, i write it down, and its really only the feeling of joy you get when i put pen to paper is how i can get my thoughts to just FLOW.
    Lovely post ! 😉

  34. I love absolutely everything about writing by hand. The feel of the pen point hitting the paper (I absolutely love when the ink is a little bit thicker and the paper is a little bit softer..) Haha. My husband thinks I’m crazy, and maybe I am just a little bit? However.. I think that’s what makes us all so interesting 🙂

    Keep up the journaling, and thanks for sharing this post!

    • I don’t think there’s *anything* crazy about noticing (and enjoying) life’s little pleasures — like thick inks and soft paper. 🙂 As you say, it’s these little passions that make us all so interesting! Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment.

  35. Yesss! I’m delighted that you have joined the ranks of the notebook/ pen obsessed. It’s a habit that will keep you happy all your days – and no side effects except inky fingers and occasional hand cramps!

    I’m always amazed by your fine handwriting, by the way: it is SO neat. (And always a pleasure to receive!) 🙂

    • Oh, my … let me tell you about the hand cramps! The other day I could have lent out my hand as a prop for a “The Monkey’s Paw.” 🙂 But what’s this about the quality of my writing? My gosh. I’ve been wishing for a long time that mine were as neat and flowing as YOURS! Looks like we have a mutual admiration society, eh? xx

  36. I miss hand writing. I used to do it all the time. I have shelves filled with journals. Stacks of story notebooks. Sadly, my hands have gotten to the point that I can’t write for more than five minutes. Can’t even fill out paperwork without taking breaks. Doesn’t stop me from jotting down notes though. Lots of ideas to get down on paper before they disappear.

    • I’m so sorry your hands are giving you so much trouble you can’t write anymore. I can’t imagine how frustrating and distressing that must be to such an avid writer as yourself! But I’m glad you’re persevering by at least jotting down your ideas before they disappear. My very best to you …

  37. Though I’ve been doing my writing on the computer for years now, I still prefer a notebook and pen to a laptop any day. My stories always start in my Audrey Hepburn notebook or my Paris one. I have 5 others that hold the outlines to the majority of my short stories and novels. I filled one with just poems and another with dreams.

    There is nothing like the act of handwriting a story. Somehow it just seems more personal. Easier to plan out and brainstorm. Sometimes you just need paper to sketch out a map in relation to your story or a quick drawing of your characters.

    I’m so glad for this post. It’s a great read. Thanks for this lovely post about the joys of hand writing your thoughts and ideas!

    • What a sweet note, Azia. Thank you! I’m really honored this post resonated with you — and to know that there’s one more cool writer out there who enjoys writing by hand. It’s heartening to know i’m in such good company. Cheers to you, and thank you so much for stopping by!

  38. I love this so much! I always felt like physically writing something gave words more personality, so your article really spoke to me, thanks for that 🙂

    • I agree with you wholeheartedly about the “more direct connection between brain and hand.” Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment!

  39. This is beautiful, and may I say that I am totally jealous of your sketching ability and your really neat handwriting!

    I keep a notepad and pen on me at all times, not as aesthetically pleasing as your wondrous notepad but a simple lined notepad and a random ball-point pen. Some days I notice that I only scribble lists, describing random things, and then some days I fill pages and pages with scenes that fly into my brain in random moments.

    This only started properly a few months ago for me, when I finished my Masters and found my fingers itching to write after spending so many years writing everyday in class, for papers, for practice.

    This was really inspirational and much needed, thank you.

    • CONGRATULATIONS on finishing your master’s degree! Now *that* is something to be proud of. I’m glad you’re keeping up the habit of writing, though, even after finishing your degree. Imagine the fun memories you’ll rediscover years from now, when you come back to look at your lists and musings! Cheers to you, and thank you for stopping by.

  40. In complete agreement with you about the joy of handwriting – I too have had comments about work on the fact I write in an ‘old fashioned’ diary instead of using an electronic one, but I prefer it! Also I use shorthand to take down notes, so why waste a skill like that by typing everything out instead? Long live pen and paper, I say!

  41. I have lil note books everywhere in the house and in my bags too! They often get page robbed (by my dear baby girl) and I continue to buy more..
    Being a member of the Y generation, I often get the LOOKS when I say I actually prefer writing to typing!!!!!
    Lovely blog and thank you…

    • How sweet that your dear baby girl is page-robbing your notebooks! (I *love* that expression, “page-robbing.” May I steal it? 🙂

      As for those LOOKS … well, at my rapidly advancing age I can tell you that societal approval is overrated anyway. 😀

      Thank you so much for stopping by, and especially for your kind words.

      • Something I learnt from my baby girl; ‘create new words’ to mean exactly what you want it to mean..
        Of course, it is my privilege..steal away! 🙂
        And I very much agree with you on the societal approval..decomplicate life I say…
        Look forward to reading more x

  42. The website Buzzfeed has one reporter who adds objects, food, handwriting, whatever, to the site that are so beautiful that it takes his or her breath away. But the reporter states his admiration of the object by writing that the item is so beautiful that he can hardly look at it, ir it makes him want to cry, or calls it so perfect that there needs to be a new word to describe it. That said, I feel this way about your journal and understand how it must have been and is like a meditation for you.

    Do you think a person can learn to write words and sketch, or do you think that one is born with the skill to draw and form letters in a beautiful way?

    • I can empathize with this reporter’s response — because I have also encountered a few objects (and people, too) that were so beautiful I could scarcely bear to look at them. And I can’t tell you how honored I am that you feel that way about my journal. I’ve really been trying to slow down and focus on forming each letter as part of the “meditative” practice.

      As for your parting question: Absolutely, people can learn to write beautifully and sketch! I’m sure there are some people who are particularly gifted in fine motor skills and can thus perfect calligraphy and etching. But even if the rest of us may never attain such levels of accomplishment, we can still improve our writing and sketching skills through simply practice. (I’m living proof of that, in fact: In second grade my handwriting was so terrible that my teachers were considering holding me back. But thanks to my father’s patient tutelage it got better.)

  43. i love writing by hand and tend to write everything down that way first even if i know i will end up typing it eventually anyway. i feel like that first draft, even though it is clumsy and riddled with small mistakes, is the most honest stuff i write.

  44. So nice to see (read) that so many people, who communicate in an electronic medium, enjoy the old-world charm and soothing benefits of putting a pen to paper and let their thoughts flow on to the page. I do find that it’s easier when the ink flows easily, so I never go anywhere without a fountain pen, even it’s just a cheap disposable one. And while I don’t fill tons of notebooks, I cherish the few I have more than anything.

    • A toast to you, fellow fountain-pen user! From what I’ve read in your blog I can imagine that you might not scribble voluminously, because you are a thoughtful and purposeful writer. But that’s good! It’s not the volume that counts, after all, but the quality, right? Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by, Lutz.

  45. I am a big believer in the notebook and pen, and reading this I realized that my writing tendency is to not type a thing until my basic storyboards, character traits lists or outlines are written out and in some semblance of order. Then I can type. My eyes tire of screens too often, so I’ve got lots of different notebooks for portability and type of writing, and a bag full of pens so I never run out!

    • How wonderful to “meet” another kindred spirit! And how wonderful too to imagine your many notebooks and bagful of pens. (Is it wrong that the very idea of all those writing instruments makes me swoon a little bit? Ha ha.) Thank you for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment. Cheers to you!

  46. The theme of Your post is interesting. There was the time, when being young, then I wrote down my poems and dreams. This “session” lasted couple of years. Since then I have not written by hand. The main reason is that I started to use computers in May 1970. Its world “swallowed” this man completely. My wife keeps travel diary when on travel and fill daily happenings in a diary. It is a five years diary, in which we can see for example, what happened on the same day one year before.

    • You’re not the only person whose habit of writing by hand disappeared with the invention of computers — but if it happened to you in May of 1970, you’re certainly one of the earliest! It’s never too late to pick up the habit again if it’s important to you, though. And at least your wife has been meticulously recording travel memories all these years (as you have through your wonderful photos). So it comes down to whatever makes us happy, I guess, which in my humble experience is the secret of life. :). Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!

        • Mind?! To the contrary … I was DELIGHTED to follow your link. What a remarkable career you had — you were a true pioneer in the aviation industry, seeing so many important milestones. And how wonderful also how you’ve reinvented your life after retirement (even if it was involuntary; I am truly sorry about that) through travel and photography. My admiration for you has just climbed even higher, which I didn’t think was possible. I’m very honored that you read my blog.

Leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s