The Lost Art of Handwriting

We live in a digital age. Word processors are the standard in this world. If you are going to write something, no matter what it is, you’re most likely doing so on a word processor. I guess the death of handwriting really begun with the typewriter, but regardless of when it happened, nothing handwritten really exists anymore. This, in many ways, makes me sad. And I’m technically part of the “problem;” most of my articles are written on a word processor, but whenever I write something for class, or some snippet of creative writing on my own, I always hand write it first. I don’t know if I can really explain why; it’s something I’ve always done.

Part of this is because of the Pilot pen company. I wrote exclusively with pencils for the early part of my life. The idea that you couldn’t erase pens just bothered the hell out of me. I only used pens if it was required. My dad changed everything. He would always throw random stuff in our stockings for the holidays, and one year he included some Pilot G2 black and blue gel ink pens. I had already started writing as an ongoing concern at that point, but I was doing it in pencil. Even back then I hand wrote nearly everything. I tried it for a quick little short story project I never finished (one of many, including “Going Home Again,” but I swear I’m going to get back to that one after my class ends). I’ve never looked back. The lines are smooth and vibrant, the ink is consistently strong. But the biggest thing it has on any other pen in my opinion (save fancy fountain pens, I would assume) is the way it scratches when you write with it. You can hear it and feel it. It’s tactile in a way that the standard ball points aren’t. It’s like writing with a quill, but not nearly as messy. That’s what changed things. That’s what made me a pen convert. I used gel ink for the rest of high school. Every now and then, I’d settle for something that wasn’t a Pilot G2 07 (or the dreadful Pilot G2 05’s, which is far too fine a point for aesthetic purposes), but it was never the same. I did Calculus and Physics work with those pens. My blue books were a mess at times, but they looked good. And that, to me, is what matters. You see a pen written manuscript and you see everything. I hate the fact that pencils can erase now. It hides the process. Spelling errors, syntax changes, entire paragraphs deleted, you can’t hide these in a pen-written manuscript. It’s a fascinating look into the writer’s process.

I still obviously type everything up, because that’s the age in which we live. But I think some of the charm was lost when our society stopped writing things by hand. You don’t even get the crazy doctor’s prescriptions with illegible writing these days; it’s all computerized. It’s soulless. Which is not to say I’m some kind of technophobe or anarchist when it comes to computers. Far from it. Computers and electronics dominate my life, and I’m happier for it. But I love the fact that I have an old concert band folder in my closet with almost 130 pages of handwritten manuscript for the novel I never finished when I was in high school. It’s got a different feel. You can discern my general mood or confidence level with a certain portion of writing by the way my handwriting changes. If I’m on a roll, the letters get larger, more exaggerated, sloppier, as I’m trying to get everything down as fast as possible before my notorious short term memory fails on me again. You can tell when my prose is deliberate because the writing is smaller, clearer, more cramped. It’s a sign that I’m focused on making the right choices as opposed to actively spewing things from mind to pen to paper. This is what I love about handwriting. It has its own language unto itself. Margin notes, mistakes, changes, it’s all there for the eye to see. An unadulterated look at the writer’s process.

Another thing I appreciate about handwriting things first is the fact that when you take the hand written work and type it up, it’s an automatic editing process. The mind never stops working or looking for ways to improve. As such, I always make edits when I type up something hand written. The original manuscript is very much a first draft, and while I don’t often do multiple drafts (to either my benefit or detriment depending on the situation), I am given the opportunity of improving my prose during that step. I think it’s an essential part of the process. It’s made me the writer that I am today, and I think that I’m a pretty good one, all things considered.

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This post was written to the tune of The Police’s Outlandos D’Amour

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