The Murder of Handwriting

wpid-IMG_20121230_192440.jpgI’ve had the extreme fondness for handwriting from an early age. I knew it when I found it pleasant to spend my spare time at my maternal grandparents’ home, writing with my tiny right hand and sharp pencils circa late 1980’s. I remember, that was when I was a 5-year-old kindergarten student. I, to be honest, didn’t really like to play with some of my classmates (who happened to be terribly annoying) because they were so noisy, which led me to playing with myself – not at the yard – but inside the classroom. I found playing with myself a lot more fun. So I experimented with crayon, color pencils, and pencils. I’d tried to scribble on paper to show everyone I could do something other than weeping over my intruded private playing ground throughout the day. Yes, I was that selfish when it came to self enjoyment. God forgive.

So one day I got a practice book in which there was much space to write cursively. On each page, I could read a line of proverb that I should copy for several times on the same page. No one could tell how I really liked this handwriting exercise. Something in my head told me to write on and on and on. Endlessly, tirelessly. There came unsurpassed satisfaction when I was done writing on every page. I would simply look at it, smile and admire the beauty of my own handwriting. Maybe I was a bit narcissist but I was at the time very fascinated by the fact that an ordinary human can create a lovely artwork like this. I enjoyed it so much and got perpetually engrossed.
Days ago, the handwriting madness arose once again. This time is stronger than ever. I watched a documentary movie aired by BBC. J. K. Rowling was the central figure on it. She was to seek her French root. It turned out great. And I saw abundant samples of cursive handwriting on the movie that inspired me to write again every single day, with my own right hand instead of keyboards. Her great grandfather’s handwriting was shown. Also there were some samples of cursive handwriting that registrars of births, deaths, and marriages in England, France and Germany wrote. These types of handwriting are ones I typically discover in the elder generation and something in my head, once again, pushed me to write again just like during my younger days.

I crave handwriting so much I’ve begun to keep a handwritten journal of my daily activities and some drafts of my blog posts (but this one is typed on my laptop as I have no time to write and type). Every time I spot a nicely designed notebook to write in, I seem to have a sudden, uncontrollable urge to buy as many books as I can afford so I can have a supply of notebooks in my room for me to write my drafts of short stories and, inshaAllah, novels.

Typing all of a sudden is less sexy, to me. Yes, I hate being a mainstream idea adopter and follower. With the abundance of electronic gadgets these days, I suppose we are now losing the arts of handwriting. Young children are now much more familiar with desktop computers, laptops, tablet PCs, etc. They swipe and tap but obviously start to forget how to write with their hands. In fact, for your information, learning how to write with hands can benefit children’s motor skills and their ability to compose ideas and achieve goals throughout life, according to Gwendolyn Bounds on “How Handwriting Trains the Brain” (source: us.wsj.com).

I too agree on the proposition that typing increasingly ‘murders’ handwriting. If that sounds too hyperbolic, I can safely say that handwriting fades away as more and more people forget how to write to become a speedy typist. Writer Kitty Burns commented on the issue, the art of handwriting declines rapidly.

Burns is true. I also conducted my little research. Everyone at my age (generation Y/ people born after 1980) now cannot write cursively in a proper manner. They either prefer block or cursive badly. As we graduated, no one demands the eligibility of our handwriting. Combined with the habit of typing, we gradually lost the ability of writing neatly with hands.

I still remember a week ago when I wrote on a sheet of paper to let an old lady with 2 sons know my address. She works at a shipping agent near where I stay now. Upon reading my handwriting, she said, “Young man, your handwriting looks so pretty compared to both of my sons’.” I smiled at her, thanking for the sincere compliment.

It’s true that I now work more often with keyboard but I also still make time writing with pens. I find it more therapeutic than typing on a gadget, which is why I ditch the idea of writing a diary entry on a BlackBerry (not to mention to write a book on it so I was shocked when I learned E. L. James typed parts of her novels on a BlackBerry) or Android qwerty phone. To add to the therapeutic effect, handwriting also enables us to write really anytime anywhere, even when electricity is non-existent around us. So bringing along a journal or notebook anywhere is a safe bet especially when you have gadgets with keypads that are too small or too tricky to type on when passing on a bumpy road. And, ah…it saves our eyes from the glaring screens for hours! Isn’t that marvelous, people? Because I’m so fatigued at the end of the day with my eyes being glued for more than 8 hours a day to my laptop screen.

We modern humans are so obssessed with data and information gathering. We collect more and more data and information faster in the digital form. People need no handwriting again. Hence, no wonder we slowly pile up oceans of data and information without any personality in it. When tests are now administered online, answers and essays are allowed to be typed instead of being handwritten, we lose all those personality details. The core message is intact still yet the individual distinct impression is lost. The suppressed parts of identity, unraveled feelings, hidden emotions evaporate just like that.

As I’ve been experiencing, keeping a journal in a notebook is fun. I have to say Sylvia Plath’s journal writing inspires me a lot. Writing a physical letter is also safer, digitally speaking. No need to worry about all the viruses, trojans that may delete all your journal files without warning.

And one more silly thing is that I want someday the latter generation – whether that be my offspring or anyone – can learn something from what I jot down. Oh God, now I think I’m Anne Frank of 2013’s….

1 Comment

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One response to “The Murder of Handwriting

  1. I have absolutely abhorred handwriting since being forced to write hundreds of sentences as punishment for trading baseball cards. Now, with the blessing of my laptop, the only writing I do is on checks.

    I was drawn here by a tag search of “Sylvia Plath”. I am currently reading her journals and have started a dialogue about her life and work on my blog. My first post is here –

    http://writingforfoodinindy.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/beauty-out-of-sorrow-reflections-of-a-young-sylvia-plath/

    I hope you might join the conversation.

    Keep up the good writing.

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