Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Doing it by hand

I love paper.  I can happily drool over stationery for hours.  All those books and empty pages waiting to be filled.  Some writers find the emptiness daunting.  I don't.  I love the promise of discovery - what story is waiting to be told in this book?

Sometimes lines inspire me.  Other times I crave the freedom of a completely blank page.  I think it allows me to continue to fantasise that one day I'll be able to draw.  Lately I've taken to the grid page.  If I'm in the mood, the mechanics of moulding my handwriting to be beautiful within the squares is just what my left brain needs to let my right brain go off and play.

I chose not to bring my laptop on this trip.  It was just one more thing to carry and I didn't think I'd really need it.  Little did I know that this writing habit I'm cultivating has me in its grips and I am feeling compelled to write.  This gave me an excuse to visit a stationery shop and take five hours to choose a small, lovely notebook.  It has lines and fine margins lightly dusted with colour.  Spiral bound.  Black cover.

So I am actually writing.  In the true sense of the word.  I am guiding a pen across the page and rediscovering how my handwriting looks.  It's almost alien as I rarely actually write with a pen or pencil these days.  I write:

  • shopping lists
  • appointments in my diary; 
  • notes in the margin of a book or on a script; 
  • notes on my music scores; 
  • notes on a knitting pattern or recipe; 
  • my score in a game of Scrabble; 
  • my name when I use my credit card;
  • in the squares of a crossword or Sudoku;
  • the lyrics of a new song;
  • the input of participants in a course I am facilitating (on a flipchart or white board).
Bits and pieces.  It is rare to sit and write for an extended period with a pen and paper.  The writing corn on the middle finger of my right hand, long dormant, is reawakening.  My muscles are protesting as my hand tries to keep up with my thoughts.

I heard the other day that some government somewhere has decided to discontinue teaching handwriting as a core skill to primary school children.  Instead it will be offered as optional in the "art" stream.  It's a shame, but probably realistic.

I do wonder what will happen to the art of reading personality through handwriting - "graphology".  I remember borrowing a book on the subject from the library when i was about 13.  I thought I'd be able to discover who I really was by analysing my handwriting.  Once I had faced my true self, my plan was to change the bits I didn't like by changing how I crossed my "T's" or how my "Y" looped.  I didn't get very far.
The analysis part is harder than you think.  Especially if you're 13.

The process of writing in long hand feels different in my brain.  It's not as fast as typing (I'm a touch typist - approximately 90 words per minute), so the brain doubles back and wants to edit and change direction.  As I look back over these pages many words have been crossed out, phrases added, sentences reconsidered.  I can see my original thoughts and judge whether my first thought or next thought was better. When typing, the edits are invisible.  The early drafts are gone before they're finished!

All the situations in which I use handwriting will be obsolete soon I suppose.  Eventually we probably won't even have to be able to sign our names.  That will be some quaint branch of arts and crafts.  Except when you're famous and need to autograph something.  

I will always handwrite my love letters though.

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