This past week, I started sending out my Christmas cards. Yes, I do email a Christmas newsletter to many of our friends. But there are still those who prefer to receive that card containing a personal, handwritten note, along with a hard copy of our newsletter. As I began composing those little messages, I found myself thinking, ‘I’m enjoying this! I’m loving the feel of my hand moving across this card, filling up that white space and expressing what I want to say to these special friends. This is fun!’
Now why was this, I wondered. After all, it was no novelty for me to write something in longhand, because, for most of this year, I have kept a daily handwritten journal, as I have made my way through a particular book of reflections on Scripture. Besides, I scribble notes to myself all the time and leave them in strategic spots, so I won’t forget things!
In the end, I realised that, as I wrote those few personal greetings on each card, I was picturing those who would receive them and being extra careful about what I chose to write. My whole self was engaged in the task—body, mind, heart and spirit. My hand was moving across that white surface as I wrote. My mind was thinking of how best to express what I wanted to say. My heart was reaching out to these people, some of whom have undergone huge changes in their lives this year or are in difficult positions right now. And my spirit was searching and praying for the right words of comfort and hope from God for each one of them.
There is much debate on the internet about the benefits of writing by hand rather than using a computer. Some experts maintain that writing longhand employs a different set of skills from those used when typing and tends to activate that more creative side of our brain. Perhaps it is partly that the actual forming of those letters causes us to engage more with the words and concepts we write. Others highlight the many practical advantages in using a keyboard. Still others point out the distractions in doing so—that internet is never far away! But, in the end, is it obvious to those who read our books whether we have jotted down our initial thoughts on paper, perhaps even writing that whole first draft by hand, or whether we have headed straight for our keyboard?
Some years ago, I attended a week-long writing course where we were encouraged to write by hand. That week, my thoughts flowed ... and flowed ... and flowed. The whole experience was so fulfilling for me and the end result was several pages of handwritten story that eventually became the first chapter of my most recent novel, The Inheritance. However, I remember how others in that course were irked by the whole process and were not backward in criticising the presenter publicly.
We are all so different in how we approach our writing. What works for some might not work for others. But how about you? Have you found some benefit in hand writing those stories or poems you create first? Or does that feel like a waste of time to you?
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.