Writing in Longhand Makes You Smarter

J. Carson Black @ jcarsonblack.com

If you look at my floor-to-ceiling bookshelf, you will see a lot of journals, spine out. They’re easy to find. I pick mine up at Ross Dress for Less—they usually have some hardbound journals, many of them very beautiful. (My current one is embossed with a peacock).Peacock journal for writing in longhand

Most important, though, they have ruled pages where I can write my thoughts. When I start a new book, I always go there, past the inexpensive clothes, past the purses, past the boots, past the toilet articles, and find that special shelf where they (sometimes) sell journals.

Why I’m bringing this up? I just read an article about something I already knew: writing in longhand makes you learn better. Check out this article from Business Insider.

Bottom line: it slows you down. The act of writing by hand slows you down and helps you to assimilate what you are writing.

I have always tried for a personal best. There have been breakthrough books. My first breakthrough book, Darkness on the Edge of Town, came after I did a serious self-assessment after a failed supposedly “easy to sell” mystery novel. Journal page writing in longhand

And so I talked to myself – writing in longhand. (Thanks, Dad, for bequeathing me your beautiful Palmer method writing style.) (Thanks, Mom, for bequeathing me many great things, like a love of writing, but sadly, not among them, your writing style).

I wrote in the journal, at the same time I was reading the best of the best: Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, James W. Hall, T. Jefferson Parker, John Lescroart, J.A. Jance, etc. And I knew that my home was in crime fiction and crime fiction thrillers.

And so I wrote. I talked to myself. I figured out things I needed to learn from the books of the great ones. I gave myself a good talking-to, as well. It was pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps time. But mostly it was just writing in longhand and going from one place to a NEW place, just by the flow of the pen and the wandering of the mind.

Here are some examples:

“5 people who defined her. The bullies. Her friend in high school who was kidnapped. Her parents. An influential superior in the cop shop? A mentor?”

And:

“Already, I’m seeing a difference. Seeing more clearly. I’m starting at the beginning, with character, I’m thinking bigger.”

And:

“Mystic? No. Is Bob a mystic? No, he’s a Sherpa.”

And over the years, I’ve had to do that again and again to get better or explore unknown territory. That is my safe place that I can control—but also expand on. My journal for Darkness on the Edge of Town was the turning point for me as a writer.