Dear Handwritten Notes, Never Leave Us
I stopped journaling when I got an iPhone. The notes section of my smartphone offered up a one-stop shop for everything from long-form personal essays (often drafted and redrafted over subway rides) to abbreviated grocery lists and favorited song lyrics. Anything worth documenting got a digital catalog. Time was, I journaled such musings by hand throughout multiple Moleskin notebooks. My handwriting in these pocket-sized tomes was often barely legible or scribbled into margins. My drafts were besotted with multiple strike-outs and littered with blurred lines of faded ink. Such was not the case for their digital counterparts.
The notes on my iPhone were streamlined, organized. They were time stamped. I didn't miss much miss writing things by hand, or so I thought. A lone piece of snail mail changed all that.
Truth be told, there were a handful of inciting incidents to reignite my passion for handwritten notes. The most singular, however, was a postcard I received in the mail from a friend traveling abroad. He didn't tell me he sent it. It just showed up unannounced on my doorstep one fall morning. The only thing he inscribed on the back was—Don't you just love postcards?
That was all it took. I started writing things down by hand again. I sent more letters. Turns out, the process of taking things old school makes an entirely separate impression on your brain—and your social circle. We're in love with handwritten notes, and science is here to back us up. Welcome to our impassioned case for analog correspondence. You got a pen?
Let's get the science out of the way first. Simply put, writing things down by hand fires different synapses in the brain. “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” Stanislas Dehaene, psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris, tells The New York Times. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain."
Handwriting is a building block to learning. It engages both the left and right brain, boosts cognitive skills, and catalyzes memory function. One of the primary reasons writing by hand is mentally favorable to typing or texting is it activates the regions of the brain used for reading. When you write by hand, you're engaging your mind more effectively. Your smartphone just can't compete.
As a creative, recording ideas by hand feels entirely different that typing. Yes, on a keyboard my fingers can actually keep pace with the frenetic pace of ideas racing through my mind. It is remarkably and irrevocably efficient.
That aside, there is much to be gained from the ritual and tedium of writing things out long-form. In my experience, it even produces different thoughts. Writing by hand, especially uncensored, invites a new weight to the words. Drafting online can at times feels like footprints being dusted over in the snow. There's something innately gratifying in striking out sentences and physically marking your progress. Tangibly marking the process of drafts removes any significance around mistakes (just cross em out and keep going!). After working on a laptop incessantly day in and day out, writing down essays by hand feels like watercolor for ideas.
Professionals in every industry share an appreciation for handwritten thank you notes. If you go on a job interview—send a handwritten follow-up as a courtesy. It just might put your résumé to the top of the fold.
If you're looking to make a new connection or reach out to a person of note whom you admire in your field, we're strong advocates for writing said influencers by hand. Keep your stationery streamlined and tailored, and your verbiage succinct. Even a message that's somewhat generic will blossom under the innate charisma of a handwritten scribe. The personalized gesture speaks for itself.
I was raised in Texas. As an adolescent, I once failed to send a timely thank you note to my grandfather due to getting wrapped up in my summer vacation. After three or four weeks passed, my sister and I got a handwritten note back in the mail requesting said thank you. Papa mailed it to drive the point home.
What was common courtesy to past generations is now considered wild thoughtfulness. Play it to your advantage. You're probably not looking at being blacklisted for lack of sending through a proper card; however, one would be hard-pressed to find a millennial who isn't equally charmed by the artfulness of a well-composed handwritten letter.
Digital life has us drowning in emails and starved for sincerity. Send your friends or colleagues a short and sweet little card. Prepare to marvel at the goodwill boomeranging back at you. Your hustle will not go unnoticed.
If you can cut the cord on digital note-taking, the analog alternative offers quite the payoff. Our editors swear by free-form journaling as a means of surrendering up negative vibes. If you're feeling overwhelmed or simply having trouble moving past a certain emotion or life occurrence, devote 10 minutes to stream of consciousness journaling by hand. Get it all out of your system.
According to science, your emotions can make you sick. We swear by this journaling trick for mental health for staying in peak physical condition. Feel free to light your free-form epiphanies on fire. Burn after reading is one of our favorite healing rituals.
Do you write by hand? Tell us what you think of our affinity for the habit in the comments below.