Writing with pen & paper can be very satisfying and can help you write more coherently, according to the new research.
In fact, the authors say, it’s the only way to write more clearly.
And writing in pencil and paper can help to keep the page-turning flow of thought going, so the process is “one of the most pleasurable of the creative arts”.
The research, published in the journal PLoS ONE, says that when you write with pencil, the brain is “pancake-shaped” in its way and it “resembles the body of a pencil”, but there’s a twist.
As the brain creates lines of writing on paper, it creates a pattern of movements that creates “a set of points”.
The brain is able to do this because it uses the same set of “points” for all the points in the writing as it does for the words themselves.
It’s not just that the brain does this; the brain also creates the pattern that we use to write on paper.
“The brain uses the pattern to create a set of words that correspond to those points on the page, so when you try to write in pencil, it makes the page look more like a book than it does a letter,” says co-author Prof Daniela Biederman, a psychology researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.
In other words, the more points you create, the easier it is to write, says coauthor Professor Richard Kohn, an expert in neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
“We’re trying to make our brain work better, and we are trying to get a better understanding of the way the brain processes writing.”
The research is the first to look at how the brain works when you’re writing with pencil and how it’s able to use the pattern of strokes to make your brain work faster.
“I think this is really exciting, because it shows that we have a brain that has a set point that is not necessarily the same as the words itself,” says Kohn.
And it’s not clear how much of this “set of points” is actually what we use for writing on a page, he adds.
In the past, the idea that writing with pen would be so easy, because we already had a set-point for our words and the brain could use that for the writing process was thought to be an illusion.
But in the new study, Biedermans group found that when people write in pen and the pattern they’re writing on is a set, the way that we think of writing is also different to writing on our own words.
This suggests that the mind may actually “write” itself into our writing, says Biedermann.
In this case, it means we’re writing things like letters, sentences and paragraphs.
In order to do that, we need to use a set.
“But what does a set mean?
When you write on a computer, for example, there are hundreds of different possible points, which means the brain can use the brain’s entire set of mental objects, and then you can get a good flow of words,” says Bieserman.
Writing with pencil Bieders group discovered that the “set” the brain uses is actually a set that includes a set in between, the “dynamical set” (also called the “focal point”) for which the brain gets its point.
“It’s like a rubber band: it doesn’t have a set,” says lead author Prof Daniel Kohn from the University’s Department of Psychology.
“This is why the brain doesn’t write itself into the writing, it can actually use the dynamical set to create the words.”
The study shows that the dynamism of the set depends on the shape of the writing and whether the writer is using the same “set as on the screen”.
In other word, the pattern doesn’t change between writing in a pencil and in a pen.
The “dynamic set” is the set that corresponds to the writing points, and the “mental object” is something the brain will use to form words and sentences.
“In other words we can think of the mental object as the point in the dynamic set,” Biedernmann says.
The idea is that you can write more quickly by writing with more dynamism, so you’re more likely to “get a good, consistent flow of word-like information”.
But this isn’t the only benefit to writing with a pen and a paper.
Writing by pencil and using the dynamics of the paper also makes it easier to get ideas out of the page.
“Writing in a paper is like you’re using a brush: you need to get the point to be sharp,” says Professor Kohn who was not involved in the study.
“And writing on the brain with a pencil is like it’s a pencil without the point: it’s just a set.”
What does writing with paper do to the brain? This new