Patrick McLean on Lifehacker has a great post on the merits of writing longhand vs. typing. “Composition requires focus,” McLean says, continuing: “A pen and paper has but one functionality. It captures the marks I make so that they can be referred to at a later time. It doesn’t ring, it doesn’t bother me with an incoming chat or IM. It never asks me to plug it in so it can get more power. It doesn’t crash, it never needs an upgrade, and it is unlikely that someone will snatch my pad and bolt from a coffee shop with it when I turn my back.”
McLean concludes that writing by hand can produce writing with a very different tone, perhaps because when you are handwriting, you can’t edit yourself as much as you can when typing. I agree; I do a lot of handwriting in my many journals (and when I’m taking notes for a story), and while it takes much longer to get my thoughts on the page, I often find the end product to be more lyrical than what I may have typed.
Handwriting, for me, puts me in a relaxed, reflective state of mind, whereas typing doesn’t seem to change my mindset at all. If anything, having to sit in one position in an office chair can get very uncomfortable, which is, obviously, distracting (of course I realize that if I were using a laptop or tablet, I could sit wherever and however, just like if I were handwriting). On the other hand, I fear I may be developing carpal tunnel, because I have to stop and rest my hand frequently when handwriting.
Obviously, it’s a matter of taste: some people find typing more relaxing and conducive to their creative process. However, I have to stand in McLean’s corner, not just on the grounds of personal preference, but on the grounds that paper and pen is actually the superior medium. Consider this: you don’t need a battery or power source, it never crashes, and, if you keep it in the same dry, climate-controlled environment as a computer, the paper documents will still be readable in a hundred or so years, no technology or software upgrade required.
What is it for you? Do you prefer to handwrite or type?