EVER wondered if journaling by hand was better than journaling on the computer? Way back in April of 2010, I posted an article about why I (generally) prefer journaling on the computer to using pen and paper. Then, in November, I posted an article about recent research that detailed the benefits of handwriting. In the article, I challenged readers to participate with me in a journaling experiment that would begin after the new year. Eleven people volunteered.
Beginning January 5th, the twelve of us journaled only by computer for one week, then we journaled only by hand for one week. During the third week, we journaled using a combination of handwriting and the computer. Finally, during week four, we analyzed our journal entries using a survey that I created for the purpose.
Here are the results:
Of the original twelve, nine responded to the survey (I have no idea what happened to the others and just have to assume they dropped out somewhere along the way). Of the nine participants, all of us were women, one between the ages of 26-40, three between the ages of 45-55, and five between the ages of 56-70.
At the beginning of the experiment, four of us preferred journaling by hand, two had no preference (usually did either or both), and three preferred to journal on the computer.
Over the course of the experiment, the average number of handwritten journal entries was 9. And the average number of computer journal entries was also 9. (I couldn’t have asked for it to be more even!)
For each of the following statements, I asked the participants to rate each entry on a scale of 1 to 3, where 1=Not at all, 2=Some, and 3=Quite a bit. Then, they were to average their handwritten and computer entries separately and enter the results to the survey.
|Entry is highly descriptive and/or evocative:
|Entry explores thoughts & attitudes:
|Entry explores emotional issues:
|Entry is about daily activities:
|Entry is about problems:
|Entry is insightful
|Entry expresses profound truths
All of the responses are necessarily subjective, but it’s interesting to me that the handwritten entries scored slightly higher on all statements except for the two related to daily activities and problems.
When asked what their overall experience was with the experiment, and whether or not they discovered anything about themselves, participants wrote the following (some entries have been edited for brevity):
- I was quite surprised that I found the computer journaling beneficial! What further amazed me was that on the days I was doing both methods, I felt a synergistic link between the two, almost as if it was one process.
- I tend to move more quickly through the day, through the entries written on the computer. There were some entries that had bits of insight and some were quick run throughs of the day. Even though my entries are a bit shorter when written, they are more thoughtful and have more substance. I use the computer to sometimes avoid the hard stuff, just to get the top layer written. I take a little more time and do more digging when I write.
- I found that I write differently; maybe because I journaled by hand for so many more years than I have blogged on the computer, but it seems that the sweep of my hand across the page stimulates more thought, and I go on and on, sometimes in tangents I hadn’t been conscious of thinking when I began. I tend to write and not stop for anything, until something in me seems to say ‘that’s it….;’ and I would lay the pen down, whereas with blogging, I might sit and stare at the screen for a while and not really know what I wanted to say. And with computer journaling, I found that I was stopping, deleting, re-writing as I went, and while I loved the finished work it seems likely that I interrupted my own creative thought process.
- I enjoyed writing by hand more than I thought I would, after so long at the computer. Still, though, I felt relieved to go back to the computer when I was done. And I didn’t like having to transcribe my handwritten entries to the computer later. In general, neither seemed to have a higher percentage of description or emotional content, which surprised me. I thought that the handwriting would score much higher in that regard. It was really more about what I was focused on.
- I was amazed that my “results” for hand vs. computer were so similar. I would have sworn that I went “deeper” by hand, but apparently not.
- It seems to me that I have more trouble getting started when I write with pen and paper as opposed to the computer. However, once I get that first line or thought written, I believe that I write much better when NOT in front of the computer.
- I’ve always believed I can get to more subconscious thoughts and feelings through handwritten journal entries. I find that writing on the computer releases more technical writing and seems to trigger my mind in the kind of writing I use for business letters and reports.
- I found that I was much more apt to tap into inner emotions when handwriting entries vs. using the computer. When I used the computer I tended to go back and correct typos as I wrote which seemed to disrupt the creative flow. The entries that were handwritten became the seeds for several stories. I also found that I had easier access to handwriting entries than using the computer i.e., if a had a thought in the grocery store, I could write it on a piece of scrap paper rather than lugging a computer around!
- I became more aware of the advantages of computer journaling, and I could get used to it. Over time I think I’d relate to it more and begin going deeper. But there is no way around the fact that I already spend too much time on the computer and face distractions there, the biggest being the constant backing up to fix erratic results of my touchy laptop keyboard. I tried eyes-closed typing but the results were such a mess … Also, I did not get the satisfying meditative feeling that usually accompanies hand-written journaling sessions.
In an “any other comments” field, all participants reported some surprise, either in that journaling on the computer worked better than they thought it would or that writing by hand was so satisfying, after journaling on the computer for a long period of time. One person said that when she altered her computer document to display a delicately shaded paper and used a handwriting font she had better results, but still missed the ability to turn the page and do improvised mind-mapping without a lot of effort. I was surprised to discover that I actually wrote more by hand than on the computer (a big surprise, since I type so quickly) and I enjoyed the fact that I could write in the garden or in any space I chose, rather than being tethered to my desk.
Whatever our preference, I think we all felt a little relieved to get back to our usual way of doing things.
So what does it all mean? I leave the interpretation up to you, my faithful readers. What do you think?
Image credit: mtsofan