Writing Wednesday: How writing helps you think

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This week I came across a couple of articles that are a little older that I hadn’t seen before, so I wanted to bring them to your attention in case you hadn’t seen them either. They are both about how writing, especially by hand, helps your brain process information.

This first one was brought to my attention by my friend Sandra (thanks!): Simplify Your Life By Writing It Down. The author points out that often just by writing out a question or problem we are able to think through it and find a solution. She goes on to say this is often because we don’t hear our own voice due to distractions, emotions, or self-doubt. She then recommends several writing exercises to help you break through these barriers. These would be good journaling prompts and topics for folks doing our Page Per Day Challenge.

The other article covers several scientific studies on how handwriting engages your brain and increases learning: Here’s Why Writing Things Out By Hand Makes You Smarter. One of the studies compared learning by students who took notes by typing on their laptop vs. students who wrote their notes longhand. The conclusion was that verbatim transcription (as people usually do on a laptop) did not engage the brain enough to promote learning, while writing longhand (which is slower and nearly impossible to capture speech verbatim) required the students to evaluate the material as it was delivered and capture the most important points. Reframing the material as it was received caused the information to be retained.

There are lots of links in that article that are worth following. One of my favorites was to an article about the science of learning: 7 Memory Hacks That Will Make You Smarter. This article discusses which methods are not effective (like highlighting) and which are (like flashcards). Basically, the more effort you put into learning, the more you engage your brain and more information will be retained. Having information wash over your brain, as in re-reading or highlighting, is not nearly as effective at getting you to understand and remember the information as methods that require you to dig the information out and reframe it, like explaining it to someone else.

And whaddaya know: one of those hacks is Generation, which is puzzling through a question to try to come up with an answer yourself–as discussed in the first article!

So you see, writing makes you smarter!

Have you found that writing out a question, problem or issue has helped you figure out the solution yourself? Do you find that writing things down helps you remember and understand them better?

3 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday: How writing helps you think

  1. I completely agree with the articles and while handwriting everything is impossible, I have started to find areas in my life that benefit from writing to better ‘see’ my thought process and make connections. The best thing I have been doing lately is using a simple planner to track a big project I am working on. While I use gmail calendar for everything, I found that using the calendar has been great for a project that doesn’t have clear external deadlines.l and keep clear notes to keep it all organized.

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