Writing with a Pen

Recently I started writing more frequently with a pen, and have been pleasantly surprised by the speed of my composition. Compared to typing at the computer, writing by hand seems to be faster and my sentences have a better flow. Spelling remains an issue, and it is somewhat inefficient to re-type what I have already written. I think with regards to the whole process, it still might be faster for me to compose drafts by hand.

In her book My Stroke of Insight, Jill Taylor discusses the brain anatomy involved in writing. For right handed people, using a pen is predominantly a left brain activity. Whereas, typing on a keyboard requires a more balanced effort from both hemispheres. After Jill’s left brain stroke, she found herself initially unable to write with her right hand. She was, however, able to compose letters on her computer by heavily relying on her right brain.

Our current keyboard layout (called QWERTY) is based on typewriter mechanics. There are other English keyboard layouts available such as the DEVORAK, which is designed for typing speed. I wonder if we should go back to the drawing board and develop a keyboard to match our brains. Since most our language processing capabilities are in our left brain, maybe we should use a one handed keyboard (it would be a right handed keyboard since our left brain controls our right hand). Then again, maybe we produce better quality writing when using both hands to write.


  1. Kristy Gray says:

    Do you notice that you write faster with a fountain pen than a ball-point pen? I am surprised that writing is faster than typing for you – especially when you don't have tools like spell check readily available. I love your hand written notes, though.

    • Bill Gray says:

      I can write faster with a fountain pen than with a ball point pen. A fountain pen does not require downward pressure to write like a ball point pen, so I don't have to press hard and my hand has no reason to cramp.

      From a words per minute standpoint, I can type faster than writing by hand. When typing I am a liberal user of the backspace key and end up rewriting many of my sentences several times, completely negating the speed advantage of typing. My first pass spelling is also better when writing by hand. Typing gives me a sloppy 60 words per minute and handwriting gives me a solid 20 words per minute. My brain is my writing bottleneck, not my hands.