I personally find it a great exercise to type stories in Chinese or send short Chinese e-mails to Chinese friends or fellow Chinese learners. It’s a great stimulus to spend more time learning the language, and of course you’ll get great encouragement. It’s also relatively easy as compared to writing by hand, because you don’t need to know every stroke. The practice of these days is that even Chinese themselves do not do a lot of manual writing any more.
It’s actually not as impressive as it seems. Typing Chinese characters on a computer is based on hanyu pinyin, comparable to typing up an SMS in Chinese. Whereas for phones, you’ll basically need to be careful when you buy a new one, the Input Method Editor (IME) to write Chinese characters can be activated relatively easily on any computer. It normally isn’t activated by default, unless you bought your laptop in a Chinese speaking country, because it requires all Chinese characters to be loaded into the memory; quite a burden if you’re not going to write anything in Chinese.
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, the Dept. of Asian studies of of the University of Redland offers a comprehensive resource of how to install Asian language support in Windows XP, Vista, and how to use the installed IME to write Chinese on your computer.
By the way, if you’re thinking of joining a Chinese class, check out the Chinese courses on our main site!