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The joys of handwriting

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

I recently bought a Leuchtterm notebook (after hearing Neil Gaiman’s recommendation). I’ve been using it extensively for the past 3 days, and I’m very pleasantly surprised at the ideas I’ve generated and refined through just writing in it.

Yesterday for example, I was sitting at the dining table at home when I busted out the notebook, popped down open the pen (pilot V ball, one of my favourites) and just started writing and sketching. I was working on formalising my system for productivity and content creation (gosh that sounds pretentious), and on revamping my website to include written guides to things like applying to medical school and studying for exams.

I’d been thinking about these areas for many months, and had already made a skeleton on Notability (for handwriting on the iPad) and Notion (for typed-up notes) but switching to an analogue notebook and pen helped me consider possibilities that I hadn’t before. Other than the obvious benefits of being able to easily flick between pages and not being confined to writing linearly, there’s just a certain… je ne sais quois… that comes from handwriting in a nice dotted notebook that digital alternatives don’t offer [1].

Generalising this further, I think the medium we use to record our thoughts often ends up shaping them. For example, I suspect a student who takes notes exclusively on Microsoft Word will develop a bias towards thinking of their syllabus in a linear fashion. But a student who, in addition, uses spider diagrams and mindmaps may be better placed to ‘see’ the structure of the syllabus more clearly, and to more easily form connections between different ideas.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my joy at using an actual notebook and pen for the first time in years. Tech is all well and good, and going paperless with my iPad was a great decision for medical school, but occasionally it’s nice to take things a bit slower and deliberately write stuff out by hand.


Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.