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The Unexpected Pleasure of Writing a Note by Hand

Handwriting can feel like a lost art in our tech-heavy times. But putting pen to paper has positive and pleasurable benefits.

Write a letter
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“My mom is the only one who still writes me letters,” the actor Steve Carell said, noting and lamenting how rare hand-written letters have become in our tech-heavy times.

He added, “There’s something visceral about opening a letter—I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.”

This comment really resonated for me recently when I got my 10-year-old son a workbook to show him how to write in cursive. He isn’t learning script in school, and his 4th grade is entirely remote because of the pandemic, so I felt an open window to introduce him to this important skill.

Doing a few pages in the workbook—tracing the letters and short words that are outlined with dotted lines—has become a relaxing activity for him. I can see his shoulders lowering and his breathing slowing as he loops and swirls over the letters, especially after hours in front of his screen and keyboard.

The script workbook isn’t his handwriting like Steve Carell’s mother’s letters. But it reflects his effort, his attention and the pleasurable result of his sharp pencil against a smooth piece of paper.

The joy of learning new ways to write is only one of its benefits. Hand-written notes also activate the hand-brain connection in ways that researchers have found improves information processing, retention and focus—a handy tool when learning is the goal.

There’s also the emotional benefit of receiving a hand-written letter. The hand-penned notes are the ones we tend to keep, tucking them into a special box or folder to pull out when we need a visit with the person whose words are recorded on the page.

Finally, there’s the sensory experience that only a pen and paper can provide. Sure, the tapping and clicking of a keyboard stimulates our senses, but there’s real joy to be found in the scent of a freshly-sharpened pencil, the sound of a piece of paper against the table, the feel of a pen in your hand and the sight of your thoughts spooling out onto the page, letter by letter, as if directed by your brain.

When is the last time you sent a hand-written letter to a friend or loved one? How about today?

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