Handwriting: From Tool to Art

by @AnnieDaylon


My cursive is cursed!

Recently, when I received a handwritten letter from a friend, I chose to abandon my keyboard and respond in cursive. Alas. My lengthy days on the computer came back to bite me. I found myself hesitating over handwriting’s loops and swirls. I also experienced growing agitation when the deletion of errors resulted in scrawls and scratches. I discarded my first attempt and started again. I had only written a few lines when I paused and questioned my spelling. It actually crossed my mind that the word I was staring at must be accurate: if not, wouldn’t there be a red, squiggly line under it? 🙂 

On the heels of amusement came a streak of sadness.  How computer dependent I have become! Am I losing my ability to hand write?

Years ago, as a teacher, I was on the side of keeping handwriting as a part of the curriculum. Later, as a volunteer at a writers’ conference where it was my job to assist writers with registration, I was appalled at meeting young writers who could barely sign their names. The awkward curl of their fingers around a pen brought to mind images of children—six-year-old students—gripping stubby pencils.

After seven years as an author, one who gets words on the page through typing or voice-activated software, I see things differently. Why would those young writers have been comfortable using pens when such activity was not a part of their daily lives? Handwriting feels awkward even to me and I have a solid background in it. The closest I get to handwriting now (in daily journals, in note-taking, and on science-display storyboards which are awash with colorful, post-it notes) is hand printing. Yes, I can still use handwriting. But would I choose it? No.

And I can foresee a time when no one will.

Still, I wonder at the dependence on technology. My parents’ generation, the greatest generation, the now dying generation, could do darn near anything: fish, hunt, sew, build, design, farm, sow, reap, print, and write in elegant cursive. What if, in some dystopian universe, today’s society loses all its tech assistance?  We would, I believe, have to start from scratch, learning once again to curl our fingers around a pencil.

My hope is that handwriting survives. It is beautiful and personal. I used to think it a valuable tool. Now? I still appreciate its beauty.

But, for me, it has moved from tool to art.

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