Paul Theroux on the Powers That Flow From a Pen

I was gratified to read in a Newsweek piece about intelligence last January, that “brain scans show that handwriting engages more sections of the brain than typing” and “it’s easier to remember something once you’ve written it down on paper.”


Article, titled “The Powers That Flow From a Pen” by Paul Theroux, travel writer and author of The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia (which we rode as well!).

Published in the Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2012.

He writes about the connection between the hand and the paper when you write with a pen, rather than typing. While of course I am biased here, as a teacher, I also see that my students are able to take their time to form letters and their thoughts as they write by hand. The freedom and flexibility of size and movement and doodling all helps stimulate the consolidation and synthesizing of what they’re trying to say.

As a college student, I sometimes re-wrote my notes to help memorize details and facts, but I like the idea of the organic creativity that can happen when writing by hand.

Admittedly, as a travel writer, many of Theroux’s notes and drafts may have been more easily or conveniently written by hand on those long train rides through the Gobi, but sometimes the simple motion of writing can help you focus as you gather your thoughts, so to say – rather than the twitchy screen and the ever-tempting lure of the world wide web.

Writing by hand is part of my creative process. The speed at which I write with a pen seems to be the speed at which my imagination finds the best forms of words.

Paul Theroux on Goodreads

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