Handwriting it seems is dying. In an age where technology rules, writing is a dirty word. The mere mention of it triggers expressions of revolt in those in the under thirty bracket. That’s such a shame, for there are some benefits from doing it like better organisation skills and increased retention of memory. You can also learn a lot about a person from their handwriting. There are many of the older generation who have enviable, beautiful handwriting. It is meticulously executed: you can almost bet that this reflects the way they live their lives too.
My own writing is illegible, at times, but I wasn’t always untidy. I actually loved to sit and write: doing my utmost to make it neat. I still have a recipe book I started solely for this purpose. If I wasn’t happy with the look of the page, I’d find another recipe and try again. Our Headmaster became my class teacher in Years six and seven. At the end of school year he signed my autograph book. I still have it buried in a box somewhere: his hand script is decidedly fluid. One of the weekly writing tasks he would set for us to complete was to write two letters in unbroken cursive: one had to have enclosed loops. He would get us to write repeatedly on lined paper in cursive, for example, fefefefefefefe. The aim was to write each letter of equal shape and height neatly, so that when the loops were filled in with colour pencil they formed a pattern. After doing so it became obvious if a letter didn’t match all of the others. This would spur you to make a concerted effort on the next attempt to ensure they were consistent. I looked forward to this activity, and recall the class always being quiet and calm.
Alas, a snail-mail letter in an envelope, arriving in the post, is becoming a thing of the past. Emails are quicker, and it is easier to correct mistakes, or rearrange large chunks of writing on a computer, but something has been lost. It’s a lovely surprise when an unexpected letter arrives in the post from someone you love in their own handwriting. It’s a tangible thing and there is some security provided by the tactile sensation coupled with it. When letters are kept for years they serve as wonderful reminders of those who have left our lives. My late mother’s handwriting was distinctively hers. The letters she wrote to me are evidence of the deterioration in her health. I can see it gradually decreasing with each letter, not just in the execution of writing but in the lessening number of pages. I feel I am lucky to have letters from her and I treasure them. A printed email just wouldn’t be the same. It doesn’t give us that personal touch; it doesn’t engage our emotions in the same way that a penned letter can. Unbeknown to me until after her death, apparently, my mother got a thrill and a laugh receiving my letters sent when I lived interstate. They were written willy-nilly: a page here and there, whenever I had a moment to spare. Some of these letters would take me a week to compose. Some were written on scraps of paper, if that was what I had at my disposal when the opportunity to write presented itself. My sister, having lived in close proximity to her, remarked how she would have loved to have had a letter from Mum.
I, for one, truly hope that the art of handwriting isn’t destined to go the way of the Dodo. It’s a healthy practice. A much slower process than using the keyboard to punch away granted, but the mind reacts in a more thoughtful manner, paying attention to detail and planning. Having time to write compels us to be more committed to the activity: our ideas flow more freely onto the paper and is less contrived.
When we use pen and paper, we pause to access our thoughts, and then continue on until we need to reflect again. We delve into our subconscious memory bank on each occasion; hence, this activity stimulates our creative ability and assists us to be better thinkers. Neuroscientists claim that our entire brain is actively engaged when we write. The left and right hemispheres have been stimulated and, thus, the capacity to think intelligently is generated. It’s an intricate skill influencing our cerebral enhancement. Our graphic ability is activated and our motor and memory circuits get a workout. Portions of our brain become inactive when we favour typing over writing: we become somewhat lobotomized.
Finding a happy medium between the two mark-making technologies is probably something we need to seriously reconsider. But I should talk! For the irony is, here I sit writing this piece on the benefits of handwriting on my computer! Not always easy to compromise is it?