As World Poetry Day arrives, we’re working with some fantastic bloggers to celebrate this joyous art form. We’re giving them all the writing supplies, stamps and envelopes they need to create their very own poem including a calligraphy set, canvas paper, and pens to get them started. As part of our celebrations, we wanted to share everything that’s fantastic about the written word. From its historic beginnings to its continued use by some of the world’s greatest authors, what is it about putting pen to paper that makes it the ideal method of artistic creation?
The Invention of Writing
Writing as we know it has its beginnings in Southern Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). Scholars at the time would carve into wood and clay in a process known as cuneiform – there are examples dating as far back as 8,000 BC. It took almost another 5,000 years for ink to be introduced, with evidence in China and ancient Egypt that both civilisations invented the product independently of each other. At that point, the Egyptians had also invented papyrus, the precursor to modern day paper. Since then, ink, pens, and paper have all developed greatly, but from quills of the middle ages to the modern ballpoint pen, the writing process has stayed largely the same. So, what is it that attracted humanity to the written word?
The Benefits of Writing
From a purely physiological point of view, writing is good for your brain. The sequential movements that occur when you’re writing have been shown to improve activity in the grey matter of your brain, which helps memory and emotional functions. Both of these function as part of our creative mind, so writing out on a piece of paper may be a more effective way of expressing ideas than simply typing.
Many people also see writing as a cathartic experience – a way to get things off our chest in a distinctly physical sense. They say that time heals all wounds, but there is evidence that writing can literally help heal your physical wounds too. A study from New Zealand found that when a group of people were given skin biopsies leaving small wounds, the half of those tested who filled out expressive journals in the weeks after the procedure actually healed quicker than those who didn’t.
The Legacy of Writing
Since the emergence of the word processor, the computer has taken over as many people’s main writing implement, but many professional writers still swear by an old-fashioned pen and paper. Many still even write out entire books in longhand, such as JK Rowling and Graham Greene. Greene once said “My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does.” There is something visceral about the use of a pen that many writers just can’t recreate with a set of keys.
One of the many benefits of writing vs. typing is the ability to see your thought processes played out on the page. When typing something out, you may delete and reword a sentence, but once you’ve deleted it you’ve lost the train of thought that lead you there in the first place. With a pen and paper, you may cross it out, but the sequence is still there on the page for you to review later. While Track Changes in programs like Microsoft Word are now more commonly used and can help address this issue, it’s simply not the same visual journey as the written word.
So, this World Poetry Day, take some time to pick up a pen and paper and express yourself. Let us know what you come up with on Twitter @viking_chat with #VikingWorldPoetryDay.