Longhand and the Bridesmaid

So. I signed up for Writing 101. It’s no so much to develop a blogging habit, as it is to sustain a writing habit. After a couple of weeks of being able to write every day, it’s suddenly a struggle again as work spikes and I have to write as part of the work. For some reason, if I need to blow a few hours on technical, report or proposal writing, I get blocked for period. I can force myself to write non-work things but it takes a lot out of me. Strangely, this doesn’t happen even if I spend hours on Excel spreadsheets. Go figure.

The first day of Writing 101 is a “free write” or stream-of consciousness writing. I’ve been doing this on and off for years in my struggle to keep my artist alive, using Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” exercise. In keeping with that practice, I do this longhand.

My handwriting is terrible. When I was a child, penmanship was something you got marks for in grade school. Being a pretty good student, my barely-passing marks in penmanship (I don’t think they ever failed anyone) really messed up my report card. Once, I got so angry and told the teacher that it was stupid to have handwriting grades count towards the averages for medals. That cost me a hit to my grade in conduct, which made me even angrier. (I had little control over my temper as a child.)

In six years of grade school, I racked up five second place finishes and one third place finish in my class. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, and all because my longhand wasn’t even close to classical cursive. I blamed it (and I still do) on my brain moving faster than my hand, and my hand cramping and hurting because of the pressure to keep up with my brain. (I will continue to believe this to this day, when my 60 wpm touch-typing speed keeps up way better than my longhand ever did. As a bonus, my hand hurts way less often.)

Ironically, I had better grades at calligraphy (I went to a school that taught Chinese language and history in addition to English). It might be because I never pressured my hand to keep up with my brain, since I think in English. It takes time to translate from English into Mandarin, and that’s assuming we weren’t just copying the characters for their structural beauty rather than for meaning.

How long will it be before people cease to learn how to handwrite altogether. Instead of a pen and paper, kids learn the “written” language with a keyboard, physical of virtual?



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