There is something about a blank sheet of paper and a comfortable ink pen, and putting those two together. There is also something about having spent years preferring the speed and ease of touch typing and so ruining what legibility my handwriting used to have.
Girls seem to go through stages of testing our longhand more so than boys do. During puberty we try on dotting our i’s with hearts or circles or inventing a new way to make the loops on our g’s and y’s, the same way we try on new shades of eye shadow or doing our hair. Some of the experiments become habit, while others are short-lived fads.
My lettering changed to a predominantly Norwegian style since it is simpler than the US style—even though the Norwegian lower-case “t” had me baffled at first. In school, we regularly practiced stringing letters legibly together with a fountain pen—the kind that uses cartridges; I still have my stainless steel one for sentimental reasons. The bump formed on my middle finger from where the pens and pencils of my youth would press is still there, never to go away even if its attending callous has no matter how much I type. I wonder if any of today’s girls will ever experience such an alteration to a finger?
It is said that writing by hand demands a connection between thinking, seeing and doing that typing misses out on. Writing by hand demands that your hand make rather complicated movements to produce lines, loops and circles while you’re simultaneously putting an entire unrelated thinking, the whole process monitored by your eyes. Typing takes away the attention to the actual form of the letter. (The things you learn, looking up Indiana school decisions.)
I sometimes think that computers remove us from using our sense of touch. And yet, my sense of touch is one reason why I love to type on a computer. I have the fingers on both hands racing across a jumble of letters. I delight in how speedily my fingers can move with hardly any error (aided by my eyes on the screen), how my digits can produce my thoughts almost as fast as I think them. Or, how my thoughts slow down just enough to let my fingers work, leaving me not knowing exactly where the thought will end, but constantly in the moment.
I type better than I write, and I can type faster legibly than I can write legibly. Therefore, I prefer typing. I don’t really like editing handwritten things; I don’t like the mess of crossed out words or redrawn letters because the first try (or two) was too sloppy. There are times when I can’t read my own handwriting because I was moving too fast, and then I have to go back and retrace. Yes, I could use a pencil with an eraser (I never can use a pencil without), but I press hard and constantly wear down the point. I prefer ball point pens.
In the interest of adding more writing to this blog, I need to write—and write more. Since I don’t lug my laptop around, and screen keyboards on tiny screens have obvious limitations, I have to write by hand. I still enjoy the feel of a good pen, a nice medium point, ink that flows smoothly, a grip that rests comfortably against the bump on my middle finger… And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get my handwriting back. Maybe I’ll be able to fill up page after page without too many retraces of lax s’s that look like r’s or m’s missing some of their humps. I’m actually looking forward to finding out.