Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Handwriting's on the Wall: Confessions of a Pen-and-Ink Writer

Recently I learned that some schools are cutting back on teaching handwriting on the theory that children do not need to know cursive anymore in this age of computers. I must admit, this makes some sense. Why teach skills that are no longer needed?

On the other hand, it makes me sad.

Do you ever feel pressure to abandon pen and paper in favor of doing your reading and writing on electronic devices? I do. But I'm resisting.

For me, the pressure started in the early 2000s with a former employer's strong encouragement to switch to a computer-based calendar instead of a paper one. While it did make sense from an office perspective to keep a master electronic calendar of everyone's whereabouts and activities, I could not force myself to abandon my paper calendar entirely. Somehow the act of manually writing down my appointments and to-do lists made them adhere better in my overloaded brain. So I ended up keeping two calendars: one electronic and one paper. This was my first clue that I am a diehard pen-and-paper girl. Now that I'm a freelancer and no longer part of an office team, I've reverted to keeping a paper calendar only, in spite of dire warnings from more technologically-minded friends that Someday I Will Be Sorry.

Fast forward to 2012. I adore my Kindle. I really do. When it comes to convenience, portability, and lack of clutter, it can't be matched. But I still enjoy reading printed books. I love how they smell, love how they feel in my hands. And they beat the Kindle hands down when it comes to reading in the bathtub!

Of course I do a lot of writing on computer, especially anything that has to be sent anywhere or shared with anyone: blog posts, articles for publication, book manuscripts. But I also have shelves of notebooks filled with handwritten scribblings. Often I sketch out a post or a scene on paper first before keying it into the computer. I don't anticipate outgrowing my need for yellow legal pads anytime soon.

In her book on creativity, The Vein of Gold, Julia Cameron writes, "There is an energy to the hand, an energy of blood, of truth, and knowledge that is deeper than skin. . . . Writing by hand is like walking somewhere, instead of whizzing there in the car. . . . But speed is not always desirable. . . . Writing by machine may accumulate pages, but I am not sure if those pages accumulate enough depth. In the end, the pages are better when they are made by hand."

What about you? Do you prefer to write by hand or on computer?


1 comment:

Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

Oh my! I cannot even tell you how much my husband and I have ranted about the decision to stop teaching cursive writing. I learn by writing and like you, have filled copious notebooks and journals. I eventually learned to compose on the keyboard, but I often wonder if I should go back to the old ways. My handwriting looks like that of a first grader and when I go to transcribe my ideas, even I cannot read them. We should not give it up though. No, no, no.