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The Oft-Forgotten Benefits of Writing Free-Hand

Recently I started keeping a journal for the first time since my teen years, to help me make some sense of events in my personal life.  It’s remarkable to me how journaling – even once or twice a week – can help you process your thoughts and relieve the outside stress in your life.  It’s just something about getting things off your chest, even in a written form that might never see the light of day.  If you’ve never kept a journal, I’d suggest giving it some thought.


I’ve noticed something else though. When I journal, I find myself thinking more as I write about what I should write next.  And I very rarely edit or cross things out and rewrite them.  In other words, I’m more thoughtful and deliberate about the writing process – and I often end up getting my message down in fewer words and in less time than I would if I was sitting at my computer typing it out. 


I think this is an interesting realization with bigger implications for those of us who write every day as part of our profession.  Word processors are standard these days – I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything, even in draft form, on scratch paper or anything other than my trusty copy of Microsoft Word.  Obviously, Word is an excellent tool for all sorts of reasons, don’t get me wrong.  I just wonder if sometimes we wouldn’t be better served with pen and paper.  Are there projects where you find yourself staring blankly at the screen, wondering what you should write next?  Do you find yourself hitting the delete or backspace buttons all the time, or maybe self-editing too much as you actually type?  I think this happens to all of us at one time or another, and maybe more than we’d like to admit.  And I’ve recognized that when this happens to me I should maybe step back, give some thought to what I want to say and jot it down free-hand.


I’d challenge you in the same way.  Would brainstorming, draft-writing or other projects be done better with good old paper and pen?  Maybe going old school might be the thing you need to tighten your copy, break your writer’s block or develop that overarching corporate message strategy that you’re tasked with.  Give it a try sometime, and see what happens.

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