The importance of handwritten notes

Jul 02, 2023
Source: Getty

Have you ever considered how important handwritten notes can be to the reader? I am not referring to a computer automated handwritten note that looks authentic, but where the scriber physically holds a pen in hand to mark a piece of paper. This is uniquely human. Hand written thoughts to hand down, particularly if the person who wrote them has passed away.  

Sometimes I get goosebumps when I am working on my computer and glance to my left. Stuck on the side of my father’s hand crafted writing bureau are two notes sent to me by my father and my older brother. Both have passed away. Their notes were sent at completely different times when they posted something to me. One a yellow sticky postal note, the other a page taken from an old faded notebook.

My father used to cut out newspaper articles and post them to me saying he had found an interesting article to share, even if not applicable. My brother, his note attached to a USB explaining the contents. My mother, well her recipe book gives me ongoing joy. I read her handwritten recipes with added side notes.  It is as if she is still with me helping me bake.

Every stroke of the pen represents something deeply personal as well as a direct expression of an individual style and personality. My family’s heartwarming messages make me glow like an open fire. They are meaningful in a way digital messages cannot match.  

I am pleased I didn’t throw them out as I can glance at them and reflect. I wonder, how many people would throw out notes on receiving something or have they kept one or two?  I am considering placing some of mine on a board to frame to leave for my children. 

Not only do I treasure my family notes, but I am also still in awe when I visit museums. To see original letters and notes written by historical figures and then try to visualise their writing in that era is fascinating. It is their personally penned words, the few remaining artefacts from their time. Even better when you gaze in wonder at our ancient indigenous rock carvings in Australia or stare at carved messages on stone tablets dating back to BC. 

More than nostalgia

Apart from the nostalgic side of things, research has proven there are many benefits of writing notes by hand. 

It has been found that writing notes aids your ability to understand and process more information, improves your memory by engaging your mind and extending your attention span, plus improves your organisation of information. 

More importantly, they are quintessential to human communication as the spoken word and a direct expression of your innermost self and connect us to our past. 

Studies have also shown that writing by hand increased happiness and the feeling of well-being. Further to this, it keeps aging minds sharp, improves retention, helps people to organise their thinking and aids people in trauma recovery. 

The writing workshops I have attended over time always suggest handwriting before typing on the computer. It forces the writer to consider each word before permanently inscribing on paper, slows the writer down and forces one to think. On a computer, it is easy to quickly type random thoughts with minimal crafting. 

Handwritten notes trigger a number of brain regions and activate areas of the brain associated with creativity. They spark electrical activity in the main motor, visual, spatial and linguistic areas that drive creative thinking. They are a powerful tool that creates the neurocircuitry in the hand-brain complex. Our brain is engaged emotionally and intellectually. 

Leave something of self

How often when going through items of the deceased have you found something they have written that made you stop in your tracks? I have and when I gently move my fingers over their scribe I sense their presence. I now realise the importance of leaving something of self for family and friends.

When I leave this world, family members will have access to messy handwritten notes, poems and notebooks that contain thousands of written words for my draft novel. So many in fact will surely need to throw some in the bin. 

Next time anyone bags us oldies about using handwritten notes rather than the computer, remind them we are on it knowing not only does our brain benefit from an old-fashioned pen and paper but we are leaving an emotional connection.  

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