I have long thought that there was something special about the use of that thing dangling from the wrist; a subtle but perceptible difference in the quality of a note taken by hand, versus one spoken into the tape recorder. (This from the woman who sleeps with the recorder strapped to her wrist to make middle-of-the-night note-taking easier.)

That is not to say that the notes recorded from brain to tape aren’t polished or refined or useful—the pivotal plot point for the next book captured on tape this morning in the car on the way to the office is a prime example.) But, as I’ve written in this space, I have long believed that there is something inherent in the flow of a handwritten note that approximates the rhythms of speech in a way that computer key strokes cannot. The fact is that tape recorded notes cannot feed back to the eye in the same way that hand-scribed notes can; the second look during transcription to the Sacred Notebook gives one a chance to assess and refine the note’s quality, an invaluable advantage.

I saw an example of the difference last night as I sat grumping on the couch, waiting for an idea to percolate. I was tempted to capture the thought on tape for the sheer convenience of it. I didn’t record it. I wrote it. And instantly, as I watched, I saw the quality of the thought change under my hand; saw it immediately reach for the grace of language as it sought the page.

Fascinatingly, an article in the Wall Street Journal this week seems to support this hypothesis. Here are a couple of highlights….

“…can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers…”

“Other research highlights the hand’s unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key.

“She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.”

If you’d like to read the article in its entirety, here’s the link: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052748704631504575531932754922518-lMyQjAxMTAwMDAwNTEwNDUyWj.html

Will I stop recording notes into the tape recorder? For the sake of my interrupted sleep and my safety on the road and my sanity, hell no. Will I continue to wonder at the connection between hand and mind and written word?  Yep. Sure will. Every single day.