There are four skills involved in language learning: Writing, speaking, listening, and reading.
The first two are considered output skills, while the latter two are based on input. For most people, generating output is much more taxing on the mind’s resources than simply taking in information and interpreting it, though speaking may come very naturally to a select, lucky few.
Of course, the reason for this is that when you are reading or listening, you have visual and aural cues. If something is rooted firmly enough in your long-term memory, such as the features and shape of a particular kanji, you will recognize it. Remembering how to write that kanji off the top of your head or coming up with an obscure word out of thin air, however, will prove to be a much harder task for your brain to process.
The answer? More practice.
Try keeping a diary in Japanese, even if you have to write about the most mundane things. Even better, head over to Lang-8 and make an account. For those unfamiliar, Lang-8 is an online language learning platform where native speakers correct what you write. Isn’t technology sweet?
But let’s say you’re a super busy person. Too busy to be keeping a journal, much less worrying about things like kanji stroke order. I get it.
For those of you who insist on skipping writing as a skill, I implore you: At least learn how to write Hiragana and Katakana so that you can spell words and write your name. If you can’t even do that, then you’re quite literally illiterate.
But you’re missing out on one major benefit unique to writing that can be enjoyed by those who take the time to practice:
Its pace and the permanence of its record will push you to demand more of yourself regarding form and the extended time gives you the opportunity to meet this demand.
In other words, writing gives you time to slow down and think about your Japanese. It gives you time to think about what you really want to say and a chance to put together all the pieces of the puzzle exactly the way you intend to. You will thank yourself in the long run for crafting yourself as a well-rounded learner and will likely gain a much greater appreciation for the language.
And who am I to say that you won’t become the next Haruki Murakami?