3 Ways Cursive Handwriting Helped Me
I’ve been on a handwriting focused journey since the winter of 2012. Back then I was just emerging from the worst year of my life. I had just been dumped by the girl I was dating, I was failing college, and I was getting into trouble with the law. Long story short, I was looking for fulfillment in the wrong places.
In 2012, I met a man by the name of Michael J. Lavery. At the time of meeting Lavery, he was 25 years into his own handwriting journey, and had been serving others as a brain coach for over 8 years.
At the time, I was looking to improve my performance in school. My main problem was my attention span. I couldn’t focus in class, which meant I couldn’t remember the important themes, which meant I was going to perform poorly in exams. So, I shared my troubles with Lavery and one of the tips he gave me was to start writing in cursive. I was a bit shocked by the simplicity of the advice, But as
he explained the neurological benefits of writing in cursive, I felt it was just what I needed.
I won’t go into the neurological significance of handwriting, but rather in this article I would like to share my own anecdotal experience with handwriting, both short term and long term.
The Short Term Results
I officially started my daily cursive handwriting routine on May 28th 2012, and one of the first mistakes I made was waiting till May 28th, almost 4 months after receiving Lavery’s advice, to embrace cursive handwriting.
Once I did, however, I noticed some very interesting results right out of the gate. At the time I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and bouts of depression, but once I began devoting time to daily journal entries in cursive I noticed a notable change in my mood. The explanation for this is hard to pin point.
I would wake up in the morning and go straight into my cursive handwriting.
I would write the date, I would write about what I did the day before, what I wanted to do that day, things that made me happy or sad, and it was that simple line of thinking that got me started. I would aim to write one page a day and this simple task in the mornings seemed to elevate my mood for the entire day.
This cursive handwritten journal entry also increased my productivity.
Each day was a little different, but regardless of whether I had a packed schedule or an open day, I would aim to start my day with this journal entry. The resulting elevation in mood drove me through the rest of the day, and in turn increased my productivity.
The substantial difference in productivity was most apparent on the days where I didn’t manage to make a journal entry first thing in the morning. On these days, I had usually premeditated a day of relaxation – sleeping in on a weekend, for example – and this, rather than resulting in a nice lazy day, made me feel more anxious.
It is something that I continue to notice 6 years later. If I don’t begin my day with a structured time to hand write, I find myself without direction for the remainder of the day. That lack of direction inevitably results in anxiety, and if I allowed for this to continue over multiple days, I would again begin to experience my depression return.
I noticed that my mood directly impacted my level of productivity, and that handwriting seemed to elevate my mood and in turn productivity. Even if I had something sad to write about, the journaling session didn’t leave me unmotivated, but the complete opposite would occur. Journaling had a cathartic effect and allowed me to leave the negative emotion on the page and continue on with my day in a great mood.
The question would then be if it is relevant to write in cursive?
Well, it’s difficult to determine, as there is no clinical evidence that would suggest cursive script is superior to manuscript print. For me cursive had two initial values. One, it triggered a sense of nostalgia, because it was a task that hadn’t been required from me over 10 years. Two, I got to witness a change in my cursive handwriting over time. My growth had a literal paper trail, and that was quite motivating.
Long Term Results
In my first 3 months of handwriting, which took place through the summer of 2012, these were the short-term results that motivated me to continue: elevation of mood and increased daily productivity.
When fall came around, and I had to return to college, I began to realize a major long-term result. Long-term, in this example is after 3 months of consistent practice, where I was writing a minimum of once a day, and often found myself hand writing in cursive twice a day.
One of my main problems in college courses was that I would often loose track of the lectures. I could not seem to pay attention well enough. I was not able to grasp the overall significance of lectures and piece together the elements that would create a sense of understanding. Instead I was falling asleep in lectures and trying to study was hopeless because I couldn’t understand what was important to know.
Up until this point the advice Lavery had given me to embrace cursive handwriting had been well received. I was feeling happier and I was more productive in general, but now I was about to find out if cursive handwriting was actually going to serve me in a practical way.
Was cursive handwriting going to help me in school?
To my surprise, the summer of 2012 where I journaled in cursive everyday made a huge difference. I returned to my course work with a presence I had never consciously experienced before. I had drastically increased my attention span. I think this might be where the biggest difference between handwriting in cursive and manuscript exists.
Let’s be honest, writing in cursive is more difficult. It is more difficult to read, and it is more difficult to write – especially to write so that it is legible for another.
I think this is where it’s value truly resides. It takes real focus to sit down and write out your thoughts in cursive. Every letter within a word is strung together and should be written in a single fluid motion.
This exercise is one that demands great multitasking. You have to consider the spelling of the word, the construction of the sentence and all while coordinating the movement of your hand to write the word without lifting the pen.
To be honest, I was rather blown away by these results. I went from falling asleep in class, studying in surplus, and performing subpar to being fully attentive in class without even trying, study half as much and performing well beyond my previous records.
The results were so dramatic that I would credit my first 4.0 GPA ever to cursive handwriting.
Now I must admit that there was one crucial element to this journey that I have not mentioned. This element may actually be the whole reason cursive handwriting made such a great impact in my life.
When I started handwriting in cursive, I didn’t only write with my dominant right hand as I had for my entire life, but I started to write with both hands. I would journal, with my right hand for half of a page, and then write the second half of the entry backwards, or in mirror image, with my left hand.
This element certainly amplified the experience of writing in cursive. It felt more like an exercise, which is why I believe it resulted in such a great mood elevation. Numerous study’s have shown the positive effects exercise has on the brain, and I believe cursive handwriting is similar in this vain.
The hands are incredibly connected to the brain as can be seen in the allocation of real estate to the hands in the brain’s motor cortex. According to the homunculus theory, approximately 25% of the brain’s motor cortex is dedicated to the functioning of our hands and when this information is put into perspective, it becomes quickly evident how closely intertwined the hands and brain actually are.
I think the perceived value of cursive handwriting may be, historically, in the wrong place. I’ve seen educators advocate for cursive by stating that it improves reading and spelling, which it most certainly can, but I think that
ultimately cursive’s value may be in its technical difficulty.
The way I’ve come to think of the value of cursive handwriting in comparison to manuscript is like this: printing is walking, and cursive is running. No one is going to argue the health benefits of going on an hour long walk every day, the same way no one is going to argue the added difficulty and benefit of running an hour a day. We can all benefit by incorporating some kind of handwriting into our daily routine, whether that be print or cursive, however, you also have to realize that the added difficulty of cursive in execution must result is some greater rewards.
If you’re interested in learning about my journey in cursive handwriting, and exactly how I went about writing in mirror image with my non-dominant left hand, you can read my book: Creative Brain Training: Increase Attention Span, Build Confidence, Stimulate Creativity.
Cursive handwriting’s greatest lessons
Down below I’ve included a video related to this subject.
It is about the greatest lessons I feel cursive handwriting has taught me.