Although many of us can type without looking at the computer keys, it takes an extra level of skill to write by hand without looking at the paper. It is an extremely useful skill to be able to take notes while watching a practical demonstration or simply impressing your friends. It will require a lot of practice to master it, but with persistence, you can learn to write without looking.
To teach yourself to write without looking, you need to practice repeatedly. Gradually adjust your field of focus to a fixed point further and further away from the page while writing. Begin by writing at a desk, and when you get more confident, progress to taking notes in more varied settings.
It may feel impossible when you start, but learning to write without looking can be a lot of fun. Let’s go through how to begin and then follow with some simple exercises so you can practice your new skill before confidently showing it off as you effortlessly take notes in class.
How To Learn To Write Without Looking
It has been proven that one can recall information better when writing it down by hand. When you type what you are hearing, the focus is more on simply recording every word as you hear it, whereas when you write it by hand, your brain tries to process and consolidate the information to write down the most important parts.
A 2021 study conducted by the University of Tokyo found that university students who took down notes by hand, writing with pen and paper, were more likely to remember the information that had been presented an hour later. This is because the brain had to undergo more complex activity, which included spatial and tactile elements, which led to improved memory.
It is therefore evident that taking notes by hand during lectures and classes increases your chance of recalling the information. However, if you have to focus on the writing process during the class, you may miss important details. You need to know how to write without looking at your page. Practical demonstrations are particularly tricky in this regard as you don’t want to miss anything.
One of the best ways to start learning to write without looking is to get into the habit of handwriting as much as possible. The more you write, the more muscle memory is being built up, and the faster you will pick up the skill of writing without looking. Get into the habit of carrying a notebook and pen and writing everything from grocery lists to your thoughts.
Whether you use cursive writing or print each letter is up to you. If you know cursive, you may be able to write a little faster, but the key element to writing without looking is writing confidently. If you are hesitant about shaping or forming any letters, it is a good idea first to spend some time practicing that specific letter repeatedly.
Here are two checks that you need to do first before you start practicing writing without looking:
- Write out the alphabet as quickly and neatly as you can. Take note if any letters trip you up or slow you down.
- Write down the numbers 1-10 repeatedly across the top of the page to fill a line. Again, take note if any of the numbers slowed you down.
If you can form every letter and number without any hesitation, you are well on your way to learning to write without looking.
Let’s take a look at how to learn to write without looking. You will not master it all in one session, so schedule a regular timeslot over a few consecutive days to practice.
1. Sit Comfortably And Create A Benchmark
The aim of writing notes is to consult and study from them later. If you simply create lines of illegible scrawl, you will waste time and find that you need to write everything out again anyway. Before you begin, set a benchmark of how you want your writing to appear at the end of the process.
You need to create some visual ballpark that you will be aiming at. An excellent sentence, to begin with, is one that is long enough to fit across one line on the paper. Also, try to choose words that you are familiar with writing, and if possible, include a few numbers in the sentence so that your brain gets used to the combination of letters and numbers right from the start.
Use your own name, address, and a fun fact. A good benchmark sentence is something like the following: ‘My name is Amy Jones. I live at 432 Hope St. I love writing’. Write your sentence across the top of the piece of your piece of paper.
2. Set Up Some Visual Markers
You may think that learning to write without looking should involve a blindfold, but going from full vision to zero would be too much of a jump. It is far more effective to divert your visual a little bit at a time while you are practicing. After all, when you take notes in a class, you will still be able to see. The focus of your vision just needs to be on something other than your page.
On your desk directly above the paper you are working on, place three small pieces of paper or strips of tape, all equally distanced from each other. They must be positioned to lead further and further away from the page you are working on but should remain in a direct line above the page. The eventual goal is to be able to lift your eyes directly over the top of the page, so keep your markers in a straight line leading away.
3. Focus On The First Visual Marker And Start Writing
While focussing your view on the first marker closest to the top of your page, write the sentence you have selected. You can still see your writing with your peripheral vision, so this should be too difficult.
The purpose of focussing your eyes away from the tip of your pen, one step at a time, is to give yourself time to become confident. You are subconsciously telling your brain that you don’t necessarily need to keep your eyes pinpoint focussed on the page.
When you have repeated your practice line, check it against the benchmark you made at the top of the page. Now keep on repeating the sentence over and over again while focussing on the first marker. Gradually, the neatness should improve. You need to continue writing while looking at the 1st marker until you can confidently write the sentence legibly.
4. Move Your Focus To The Next Markers
Once you can write your chosen sentence with your eyes on the closest marker, move on to the next one. You will notice now that although you can still see your hands, it is more difficult to follow the track of your pen.
Repeat writing the sentence, checking, refocussing your eyes on the marker, and writing it again. Repeat until the page is full. You may need to use lots of sheets of paper to get your handwriting to the standard you want it to be.
Once you can successfully write the sentence using the first two markers as your visual focus point, move to the 3rd one. This point should be as close to the back of the top of your desk or table as possible. When focussing on this furthest point, you will only be able to visually detect the movement of your wrist and hand.
Write your sentence and repeat it until you can write it confidently and at an acceptable standard of legibility.
5. Use A Visual Focus Point In The Distance
If you have reached this step in the process, you are well on your way to writing without looking. The point of this crucial step is to train yourself to lift your chin and focus on something removed from your desk. It is the same style you will need to take notes during a class at college.
Find something to focus on beyond your desk. A picture on a wall is a good option, or place a colorful sticky note on a notice board. Your eyes should be raised and looking forward. You may see some peripheral movement from your hand, but keep your eyes focussed on the feature you have selected.
Repeat the process of writing the sentence and checking it. Do this over and over, one line below the next. Besides producing legible handwriting, you also need to practice moving your hand down slightly after each line, so you don’t write one line on top of the other while maintaining the straightness of each line. It’s no good you can write the top few lines on a page perfectly without looking, and everything on the bottom half of the page is a scrawl.
6. Change Your Example Sentence and Keep Practising
By now, you will be pretty tired of writing the same sentence repeatedly. So once you have mastered writing your example sentence without looking at the page, it is time to change things up some more. You will need to practice your new no-look writing skill to perfect it.
When you start, you will find that you will manage better some days than others, but like most things, the more you practice, the luckier you will get! There are some useful writing exercises that can help you consolidate the skill of writing without looking, and soon you will be able to take handwritten notes like a pro.
Practice Exercises To Learn To Write Without Looking
Writing without looking at your page is a valuable skill that will serve you well throughout life. Like swimming or riding a bicycle, it is also a lifelong skill, so it will come naturally once mastered. The secret is that you need to practice continuously while you are learning to consolidate the skill.
Practice each sentence using the visual focus points you used while learning this skill. If you are a novice at writing without looking, start each sentence using the closest visual marker. If you feel confident, you can begin by focussing on the furthest point and working backward if you are not managing.
The best practice sentences use as many letters of the alphabet as possible. Here are five exercises that will be helpful while practicing the skill of writing without looking:
- Write out all the letters of the alphabet. See if you can link some of them together using a cursive style. This exercise will help you write faster and keep your words more compact without looking at the paper.
- ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.’ Go ahead and take a look – this sentence uses every letter of the alphabet and is, therefore, a popular choice for writing exercises. That may be pretty boring, though, so check out this list of other interesting sentences that also use every letter of the alphabet and choose the one you like the most.
- Add some numbers to your practice sentences. Often our brains stumble or have a slight hiccup when we are trying to process numbers along with letters. Imagine being in a history class and jotting down important dates. When learning to write without looking, it is important that digits can flow just as quickly as other text.
Try a sentence that includes your best friend’s or grandparent’s complete birthday, month, date, and year. Not only will you be practicing your writing, but you will also be more likely to recall the date when you need to!
- Practice writing notes while watching the news on television. Next, it’s time to move away from your desk and get into a more real-world note-taking situation. Either use a hardcover book or a clipboard to support your paper. Keep your eyes on the screen, and take notes.
Taking notes from the TV can be a great way to incorporate what you see and hear and transferring it onto paper. This exercise can be a lot of fun, and you can even get the whole family involved to give it a try. This method will provide you with time to practice safely at home before trying it in a real-life setting.
- Add some background noise distraction. Once you are confident about writing without looking, it’s time to turn things up a notch. Imagine sitting in a classroom and near a squeaky door that is constantly being opened and closed.
While practicing your writing at home, try putting on music that is not your taste – choose the genre that jangles your nerves. Now try writing some sentences while focussing your vision on a point across the room. The aim is to distract and confuse your senses, so your ability to write legibly without looking becomes almost mechanical.
To produce consistently legible handwriting without looking, you need to practice in many different conditions. It needs to start to feel entirely normal for you.
Writing notes has been proven to increase recall of information, so the argument for students to take handwritten notes during classes is strong. The ability to write without looking can be learned. It takes a lot of practice but is a valuable skill.
Learning to write without looking takes determination and practice. Students need to start by focussing their vision on a point other than the pen’s tip. They can then gradually move further and further away until there is no need to look at the paper at all while writing.