Why I Love Writing By Hand?
January 23rd was National Handwriting Day and it made me want to share some of the reasons why I believe writing by hands matters despite the advances in digital technology.
I have always loved the sensation of writing by hand. I still have the memories of my body weight as I positioned most of my weight over the lined exercise books in primary school and the joy as my fingers held the pen against the page and shaped each letter into words and eventually into sentences.
A brilliant art teacher in primary school, who was also my form teacher for many years, instigated my love of handwriting. Mrs Hinds was tiny but a very powerful woman who no one would mess with and she liked me.
One term (we were around eight at the time) she handed us all out real fountain pens. But these were no ordinary fountain pens; these were italic fountain pens with broad nibs, which navigated letters and words giving them those sharp, rounded edges, and tails that is the foundation of italic script.
We began out first lesson in italic handwriting by learning to write each letter from the alphabet in italic script. I was hooked even before we began. That Friday evening at home I started practising as she had asked us to and did so for the whole weekend and within weeks italic handwriting became the foundation of my very young script.
I didn’t mind the fact that the ink sometimes spilt in my bag or that I was lost without blotting paper. I loved the fact that my Uncle picked up on my enthusiasm for writing in italics and marched me down to the old stationary store on the high road and allowed me to choose my very first italic fountain pen. I can still recall the huge glass counter filled from one end to the other with every combination of pen you could think of. I spent a good while as the sales assistant talked me through the different nibs. Not that I needed much persuasion as I knew exactly what I wanted and that was the fountain pen with the thickest nib.
I didn’t really get on with the skinnier nibs as the pressure I placed on the page meant that skinny nibs would be as such an angle they would start tearing the page. My lovely italic script became the norm whether I wrote with biro or fountain pen and followed me through secondary school and university. People would often commend me on my lovely handwriting. I was studying in the days when it was still permissible to hand in application forms in handwritten script (imagine that). I was one of those people who had no problem at all with this because on some level I knew that my beautiful script was a calling card. An indicator many organisations would use as a measure of the person behind the scripts assumed, good character.
It’s not the same receiving ten applications all typed in the same font and size, as it is ten applications all handwritten showing the originality of the person behind the script. I would submit beautifully scripted application forms and very rarely not hear back. However times have radically changed and handwriting if we don’t keeps our pens on the page is in danger of becoming extinct.
Only this week whilst working on a training programme I watched on the sidelines as one colleague handed a page of hand written script to another colleague who looked at the page of handwritten script as if it was a relic from a museum and whose reply felt almost as if they couldn’t believe they would be expected to read handwritten text, “Do you mind typing that up for me?”
The thing is I have asked myself this question many, many times can you imagine a world without handwriting? It would be like taking away all of the trees in the world from the landscape. Can you imagine how naked the landscape would look and feel let alone the oxygen we would loose? I think the same could be said for the loss of handwriting, our lives would be naked without it.
I believe we should fight tooth and nail to preserve the art and culture of writing by hand. Bring it back into schools I say? Teach it like we would history or science. Instead of mindfulness classes in schools experiment with adding italic handwriting to the curriculum. You may find you get the same outcomes. Not only is it satisfying to develop handwriting that is individually your own signature but the physical act of handwriting many experience as calming and soothing, a slowing down of the breath that is both personal and intimate that comes from our own personal dance that we weave on the page when we write by hand.
Only yesterday I sat on the train and observed people hunched over their phone, eyes scrunched up peering into tiny screens and fingers hastily stabbing against the tabs and wondered where the joy was in many of our interactions with the digital world? Getting to the end of a handwritten entry, looking back we see more of ourselves in the inscription left behind than the faceless mass marketed script of typed text.
I also love the freedom of not hauling my laptop around the UK with me whether it is for personal or work reasons. I’m a writer by nature so whether for work or leisure writing an article or writing for pleasure is never far away. But the sheer weight of my laptop is becoming a chore and I love the freedom and lightness I have when I leave home with just a notebook and pen as my companions for the day. And for a range of reasons I see and notice more when writing by hand (but more on that in an article at a later date).
Evidence based research is consistently confirming the benefits of writing by hand. Our memories are more pronounced and effective when we write by hand rather than digitally. We have a different and often deeper connection to our emotions and feelings in some circumstances when we write by hand. The skin and memory are deeply connected and writing by hand benefits from this unique sensory based relationship.
I am grateful that National Handwriting day was celebrated this week (I’d like to thank whoever thought of making it happen and thank them for such a noble cause). And there certainly is hope if we are to take encouragement from the twitter trail yesterday on #NationalHandwritingDay suggests.
And I have my own personal glimmer that the tide may be changing from a personal encounter I had at Christmas. My daughter who is twenty-six who rarely reads a book and certainly doesn’t follow my love of journaling or writing in notebooks announced that the gift she would love for Christmas was a fountain pen with real ink. I couldn’t get to the shop fast enough.
In the last week of May I will be leading a week-long writing retreat on the beautiful Greek island of Kalikalos. One of the highlights of the week will be the immersion in handwriting, a personal journey with ourselves on the page as we pen short stories, novels and articles and grow our businesses and personal lives in a divine space of creative inspiration, grooves of olive trees, mountains and the ocean.
Most participants become intimate with their journals and notebooks whilst on retreat and we start each class with personal time writing by hand in our notebooks and journals from which much of the writing that is generated over the week is sourced. It will be a restorative space to nurture your inner writer and use your voice as a writer in a range of ways. To find out more click here: http://www.jackeeholder.com/events/
In the meantime here are some tips for how you can personally contribute to making sure the art of handwriting stays alive:
·Write more letters and cards and send them through the post. We need a revolution in this department.
·Keep a regular paper journal, diary or notebook. You’ll be part of the army of paper journal writers around the globe who are keeping handwriting alive.
·Enjoy making your daily to do lists in your most beautiful handwriting script
·Send someone a handwritten thank you card this month. You will make their day.
·Appreciate National Handwriting day (and it doesn’t have to be just for one day) and write a page of anything in your own personal handwriting. Copy a page from a newspaper or from an article online. To make it even more personal copy in your own handwriting a favourite poem or an inspirational piece of text. That way you’ll be doing something that is of personal meaning.