Get Writing

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Get Britain Writing!

I was delighted to discover that this past week was National Stationery Week in the U.K. Aimed at encouraging children to learn to handwrite and adults to continue this traditional method of communication, this campaign brings attention to a dwindling art through the focus on writing materials.

I’m an advocate of using paper correspondence as a way of maintaining social links. I believe there’s something that a tangible note affords that cannot be replicated by email or other electronic communication. This brings to mind a Wall Street Journal article from a few years back which details other benefits to writing than just purely social. This piece outlines how learming penmanship helps children make connections and develop ideas. Learning solely through technology does not reap the same benefits. There’s something about handling and manipulating a pen that profits the developing brain.

Each time I pick up a pen I’m reminded about how few times I do so. These days I form shopping lists on my phone, monitor to dos on an app, and often draft writing ideas on my iPad. Consequently my handwriting has suffered, and it always feels a little awkward wielding a writing instrument. However, once I get going I really enjoy the experience. There’s something very satisfying about seeing ink script on a page. And the Wall Street Journal is correct, using a pen helps creativity. I love the feel of a pen in my hand and the freedom to add doodles to the notes that fill my design notebook. However I try to store my ideas electronically, I find there’s no substitute for hard records. When one book is full I relish selecting another. My current book is a classic, unlined Moleskin version in a vibrant red. Picking it up just makes me begin to feel inspired and happy. The pages are of a good weight and the color is perfect. Using a rollerball or sketching pen on these is extremely satisfying, encouraging lengthy entries. This leads not just to the notation of ideas, but to the development of these. When studying design you’re taught over and over to keep working and refining your ideas under the mantra “your first idea is never your best”. Of course I’m not the first person to find that utilizing a design notebook is productive. Some years ago London’s Victoria and Albert Museum highlighted how sketchbooks were an important part of the creative process. Sketchbooks are not just about drawing, but are part of the connection between the brain and hand.

I hope that Stationery Week can help remind us of penmanship and the value it can bring to our personal development and in connecting with others. After all, receiving a letter or card always makes us feel more special than receiving a text or email. There is still a place for stationery.

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