It’s time to bust out the pen and paper. I know what you’re thinking: “Who does that anymore, Torah? It’s called a laptop, tablet, or cellphone. I can just type up my thoughts or click a record button on an app.”
(Keep scrolling for the video version of this post.)
While it’s true that you can quickly type or record yourself, there are benefits to handwriting or keeping a physical journal. According to the New York Times, one Yale Psychologist said, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important.” The Times also reported that when “children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.” You can read the full New York Times piece here.
When I started writing my memoir, Amish Girl in Manhattan, I created the first drafts of each chapter by hand. I’d been struggling with major writers block and . . .
. . . eventually found an amazing writing mentor who asked us to write in only 12-minute real-time sessions. I didn’t bring my laptop to the first session because I was scared shitless to share any of my work — and I also hated dragging a heavy backpack around during the day on the off chance that I’d suddenly find myself on a writing streak.
I’d intended to just sit there and listen in, figuring out if the group was safe for me to talk about my traumatic childhood experiences and adult triggers. But I always carried pens, journals, notebooks, or sheets of paper in my bag in case inspiration struck as I went about my day. Often that included sitting at a cafe consuming copious amounts of coffee, waiting for the writing genie to show up. So when my writing coach set the timer for 12 minutes that first day, writing by hand was my only option.
I saw immediate results within just those short minutes. Most of what I wrote was crappy but my coach had said that our pens couldn’t stop, so if we didn’t know what to write, then we should just write “I don’t know what to say”.
That day I saw one interesting sentence appear at the end of my writing session. And that marked the beginning of the end of writing my memoir. I’d finally cracked the code that worked for me!
In one of the chapters of my book, I share in detail the exact process I used to build a writing habit that eventually led me to success with my manuscript — while benefiting me therapeutically. I had to sort through my traumas every step of the way, and handwriting made it possible for me to find clues that typing simply couldn’t.
Although my method focuses on helping people write with the goal of eventually publishing or sharing their writing publicly, that doesn’t have to be your goal. You can still use this process to just start a daily journal or use writing purely as a healing tool. I created my version of the writing method to process my traumas, and I want to put it out into the world so others can use it in that way, too.
Whether or not you believe my method works, I hope you begin writing by hand. Start a journal today, right now, as soon as you are done reading this. There’s something about physically writing with pen and paper that connects your subconscious with your conscious and sparks or deepens the healing process.
Stay tuned for Tool #5!
Do you write?
Besides using a pen, try colored pens, pencils, or even crayons.
What are results after writing by hand for only 12 minutes?
I’d love to hear from you!
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Watch the Video (coming soon)
Keep scrolling for the video version of this post.
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“To education and children’s rights”
Amish Culture Courses: www.AmishHeritage.org/courses— Torah Bontrager, Executive Director, Amish Heritage Foundation – www.AmishHeritage.org
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